UK regulator gives go-ahead for spectrum trading

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, said it will allow UK mobile operators to be able to trade spectrum with each other for the first time. Under the new rules, which will be administered by Ofcom, operators will be able to make offers for 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz spectrum that are presently licensed to another operator.

Commenting on the new arrangements, Ofcom said in a statement that over the past two decades, mobile phone operators had acquired blocks of licensed spectrum, but "not all operators hold the same amount of spectrum, and the level of demand for mobile services also differs from area to area."

Ofcom CEO Ed Richards added in the statement that this move "comes in response to the fast pace of change and innovation taking place in the mobile communications sector, which is placing increased demands on spectrum."

This decision to allow inter-operator trading came after complaints from some UK operators that the division of spectrum across the industry was unfair given the surging demand for mobile data traffic.

Everything Everywhere, the merger of Orange UK and T-Mobile UK, holds the majority of the 180 0MHz spectrum, while O2 and Vodafone have exclusivity over the 900 MHz spectrum.

While it remains unclear if these new rules will trigger a rush of bidding for valuable spectrum, any activity is likely to be swayed by the forthcoming allocation of spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands. This fight for the spectrum will likely be intensified given Ofcom's statement that the forthcoming round of spectrum allocation will be the last in the UK mobile market for a decade.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this article

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