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Ofcom plans for 5G as broadband speeds increase

Plans for more spectrum use to meet data growth
Fri Nov 16 2012, 11:47
Mobile spectrum antenna against sunset

UK TELECOMS REGULATOR Ofcom has outlined plans for 5G wireless services to ensure that the UK can meet the growth of mobile data expected by 2030, despite not having held auctions for 4G spectrum yet.

Today Ofcom predicted that mobile data demand in the UK could be 80 times higher by 2030 than it is now, underlining the need to prepare the nation's spectrum holdings to meet this challenge.

Ofcom is planning to use the 700MHz band for future digital services. This spectrum is now used for digital TV services, but Ofcom said that its use for data services will not require another "switchover" as the spectrum could be used alongside the existing signals.

"Within the coming months we will hold the UK's largest-ever auction of mobile spectrum for 4G. However, that may not be enough to meet consumers' future data demands, which is why we are already making significant efforts to prepare to go beyond 4G," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

"Our plans are designed to avoid a ‘capacity crunch', ensuring that the UK's mobile infrastructure can continue to support the inescapable growth in consumer demand and economic growth more generally."

Part of the plans to avoid a clash between spectrum use will see some of the frequencies for digital television moved to the 600MHz band.

For most this will mean a simple retuning of their set-top boxes, although some might need new rooftop aerials, Ofcom said.

Ofcom said that this change will not be required until 2018 at the earliest and that it will work with relevant stakeholders to minimise the impact on consumers as much as possible.

The demand for data access was also underlined by new figures from Ofcom's Infrastructure Report update, that found the average fixed-line internet connection in the UK has risen from 7.5Mbit/s to 12.7Mbit/s over the last year.

The report also found that the coverage of mobile broadband has improved over the last year, with the percentage of premises that cannot receive a 3G mobile signal falling from 1.2 percent last year to 0.9 percent.

The rollout of 4G services will also help improve this over time as the frequencies up for auctions, particularly the 800MHz band, offer better services over longer distances.

The push for 5G technologies from Ofcom comes after the government announced £35m in funding for the University of Surrey to research 5G services. µ


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