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Qualcomm selling its 1.4GHz spectrum (with a little help from Ofcom)

L-Band frequencies could fetch a pretty penny

US chip-making giant Qualcomm is looking to sell a chunk of radio spectrum it found just lying about in the back of a cupboard.

The company released a statement saying:

The European Commission recently voted for the release of L-Band (1452-1492MHz) spectrum throughout the European Union for use as Supplemental Downlink (SDL).

Qualcomm believes that SDL can be key to meeting the increase of 4G mobile data traffic globally that is downlink centric.

Qualcomm UK Spectrum (QUKS), Qualcomm’s subsidiary that owns L-Band spectrum rights in the UK, plans to trade this spectrum.

Now that (1) the L-band is harmonised and mandated by the EU for mobile broadband SDL and (2) the technical terms of QUKS’s licence were varied by Ofcom to allow SDL to be deployed, QUKS now plans to offer its spectrum for sale.

Qualcomm bought the spectrum at auction in 2008 for £8.3m.

At the time, the company said: “Acquiring this spectrum will enable us to develop, test and explore a variety of innovative wireless services and technologies that will benefit European consumers and the wireless industry as a whole.”

More recently, Qualcomm approached Ofcom to have its licence modified to allow the spectrum to be used for supplemental downlink duties. This was granted two weeks ago (PDF).

At the same time, the spectrum was included in Ofcom’s rules for trading regulations.

While companies are allowed to buy and sell spectrum, Ofcom will oversee the sales to ensure that no mobile operator accumulates too much.

Qualcomm also owns 410-430MHz spectrum that it acquired through its Inquam business when it bought the failed Dolphin TETRA mobile phone network for £25m in 2002. The company ran Dolphin for a while but was beset by poor coverage – so much so that Dolphin staff would carry a company-issued GSM phone.

The idea at the time was that Qualcomm would use the spectrum to launch a CDMA network in the US, but that never materialised. ®

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