Telecoms watchdog Ofcom has set out detailed proposals on how it will release the spectrum that will be freed up as a result of the switchover to digital television.
It says the aim is to enable innovative services that will deliver significant benefits to consumers.
The spectrum, known as the digital dividend in the UHF band, is currently used for the delivery of TV channels using analogue technology. Signals transmitted in these bands can travel over large distances and carry a large amount of information.
These characteristics make the spectrum very suitable for delivering a wide range of new services, including:
* ultra-fast mobile broadband;
* mobile television;
* more digital television services, in standard or high definition.
Ofcom’s consultation document proposes to release the spectrum in a way that will promote competition and innovation and allow the widest range of technologies and services to access the spectrum.
The licences would be tradable and flexible to allow users to determine the technology and services they provide and to change the use of the airwaves as new technologies and services emerge.
Ofcom plans to make 128 MHz of cleared spectrum available on a UK-wide basis, holding an auction in 2009. The spectrum will be freed up for new uses in phases, as digital switchover proceeds between now and 2012.
Ofcom will encourage a number of different and innovative uses and promote competition in the use of the spectrum. Proposals include limiting the amount of spectrum that any one organisation can acquire, and measures to prevent new services from causing interference to existing digital terrestrial television services.
The consultation closes on August 15. The document can be found here.
Meanwhile, Ofcom’s consumer panel last week hosted a conference on NGA (Next Generation Access Broadband) which will feature speeds of up to 100megs - some ten times faster than current average speeds.
Anna Bradley, the new chair of the panel, said: “It is imperative that we face the challenges of delivering a social dividend by looking at ways of delivering NGA to all corners of the UK, alongside making the economic case for commercial roll out.
“If we are imaginative and utilise a mix of private and public business models, we could ensure the current digital divide is addressed and not deepened; giving those consumers currently excluded from first generation broadband the potential to leapfrog this technology and move straight to next generation.”
According to the Ofcom, some of the services that could become available include telemedicine and other tools that would support assisted living at a distance - making it possible for people to stay in their own homes as they get older – or two-way video conferencing, enabling business meetings where more people can work more efficiently from home.
“The internet has already brought about a revolution in informing citizens, NGA will allow us to break out of the current formal education structures and introduce new ways for people and teachers to access education materials and help life-long learning.
“We have a choice. Let’s make the right one for all consumers and citizens.” Anna Bradley said.