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Ofcom Plans Multiple Spectrum Auctions

By | December 13, 2007

      [12-13-07 – Satellite News] Satellite players targeting the United Kingdom likely will get the opportunity to participate in a variety of spectrum auctions in 2008, as the U.K. communications regulator steps up plans to release spectrum.
          The U.K. Office of Communications (Ofcom) plans to auction of three separate areas of spectrum, including the 10-40 gigahertz (GHz) range in February, L-Band (1452-1492 megahertz) in the spring and a 2.6 GHz award in the summer, Anirban Roy, Ofcom’s head of regulatory compliance, said.
            “We have got a number of awards coming up, including the digital divided spectrum, which is spectrum that will be freed up after the analog TV signal is switched off,” Roy said. “Ofcom is in the process of releasing some 400 megahertz of prime spectrum to market for new wireless uses released over the next few years. This spectrum is really valuable.”
          Ofcom announced Dec. 7. plans to auction radio spectrum early next year in the L-band which could be used for mobile television or satellite radio services. “What we announced is the culmination of a process to get this spectrum out into the market,” Roy said. “The statement published this week is Ofcom’s decisions based consultation with industry on how to make this spectrum available including details on the process and the licence conditions. We intend to auction a total of 40 megahertz of spectrum as part of this award. This is prime spectrum in the sweet spot, which is very valuable due to its capacity for carrying data and its propagation characteristics.”
          This auction covers terrestrial rights of use that could be a new part of a satellite offering, Roy said. “This award allows players to bid for a terrestrial component, which means they can do the relevant bits of terrestrial in-fill and repeaters, which in the U.K., may be more important than it is in the U.S., for example. I think this spectrum could be significant for a number of players, but certainly we have had a lot of responses from satellite players to our consultations.”
          Ofcom is adopting a technology and service neutral policy, meaning the market will decide which services will be offered via the spectrum and it will be up to satellite players how aggressive they might be in acquiring this spectrum. “It will be up to satellite operators to decide whether this spectrum is suitable for them [and] whether it has the coverage and the characteristics that they need,” Roy said. “At the European level, there is a plan to award spectrum around two gigahertz, which could be an opportunity for mobile TV. There is nothing in our current plans for upcoming service and technology neutral awards that would prevent satellite radio players bringing services to market in the U.K, although they will need to comply with relevant U.K. and international regulation.”
          There is mixed interest from the satellite industry. Inmarsat and Ondas Media officials indicated they are not interested in the available spectrum, but Ondas rival WorldSpace plans to bid.
           “Although the auction will be conducted on a technology neutral basis, it has been designed to maintain the technical feasibility of offering satellite radio in the U.K,” Tedros Lemma, vice president of regulatory affairs at WorldSpace, said. “For example, the 12.5 megahertz of L-band spectrum that has been harmonized for satellite radio in Europe will be auctioned as a single block, making it ideal for a satellite radio application.”

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