UK considers spectrum caps as it plans for next-gen mobile

The UK government will consider caps on spectrum ownership as a means of settling long-running dispute between mobile operators and to provide for nationwide mobile broadband.

In a victory for O2 and Vodafone, a report by the Independent Spectrum Broker (ISB)has recommended the caps, which would mean that owners of existing frequencies would have to sell some spectrum in order to obtain more.

Regulator Ofcom is eager to auction the 900MHz spectrum for mobile broadband services and had planned to take the frequencies from the biggest carriers, O2 and Vodafone, but had met fierce resistance.

The ISB said the existing spectrum owners could be offered indefinite ownership of the spectrum if they extended 3G coverage and allowed infrastructure sharing.

Under the proposal, operators seeking to obtain 800MHz spectrum would be forced to give up an equivalent quantity of 900MHz spectrum.

Ofcom also plans to auction spectrum on the 2.66GHz band in another component of its plan to bring wireless broadband to the entire country by 2012.

Spectrum ownership on the 2.66Ghz band would also be capped at 2 x 60Mhz. These restrictions would last around one year from the date of the auction.

Britain's communications minister Stephen Carter said the government would respond to the ISB proposals in the final Digital Britain report next month.