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Ofcom snatches 700MHz off digital telly, hands it to mobile data providers

Hungry mobe'n'slab-waving Blighty swallows spectrum

Ofcom is planning to nick some of the airwaves currently used by digital terrestrial telly and hand them over for the nation's mobile broadband use.

The regulator said today that it would make the 700MHz spectrum available for mobile data to make services faster and cheaper, although the changes won’t come into effect until 2022.

"This is a crucial next step in the development of the UK's communications infrastructure. This decision ensures that we are making the raw materials available with which investors and companies can build the services which will support the digital economy of the future,” opined Ed Richards, Ofcom’s chief exec.

"More spectrum will be available for mobile broadband where demand is especially high, but the UK will retain a competitive terrestrial television platform as well."

It’s not going to be as easy as all that though. Both digital terrestrial telly and the programme making and special events (PMSE) sector will have to make changes to make it work.

Ofcom reckons there will have to be a new plan for frequencies currently used by the telly platform and transmission infrastructure will have to modified, at a cost of somewhere between £420m and £470m.

The PMSE sector, which covers theatres and music and sporting events, will also need to replace some equipment at the cost of £13m to £21m.

But Ofcom said that demand for mobile data could be 45 times higher by 2030 than it is today and service providers needed more spectrum to meet the growing demand for the ‘net on smartphones and tablets. ®

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