UK operators with a hungry eye on radio frequencies in the 700MHz band will have to wait another seven years, although Ofcom hopes to turn over the spectrum sooner if possible.
The UK regulator published a decision explaining how the switchover to mobile broadband in the 700MHz band will occur at the start of 2022, if not sooner.
It plans to run an auction to allocate the frequencies in the band up to two years before the spectrum actually becomes available, which would mean approximately in 2020.
Debate has revolved around the cost of relocating the current tenants, a process which Ofcom reckons will cost about £550 million to £660 million.
Existing digital terrestrial TV infrastructure will need to be modified, while viewers will need to retune their TVs. And about 100,000 will need to go further and replace their aerials, and a smaller bunch might need a filter to block mobile phone signals interfering with their sets.
In addition, many users running live theatrical, musical or sporting events (who tenant a sliver of the band) will also need to replace equipment to operate in different frequencies.
Set against the cost are benefits to the UK economy worth about £900 million to £1.3 billion through improved indoor and rural coverage for 4G, claims the document.
Ofcom’s plan is to reallocate the 694MHz-790MHz band, which it characterises as the ‘700 MHz band’, for mobile broadband. Currently, the whole of the 470-790 MHz band is used by digital terrestrial TV and live events.
A consultation on this subject was launched in May this year by the regulator.
Separately, Ofcom has announced that Steve Unger is taking over as the regulator’s acting chief executive from the end of 2014.
Unger is currently director of the strategy, international, technology and economist group at Ofcom. He will step up to the new post when Ed Richards stands down at the end of December.
The process to appoint a permanent chief executive is under way and the board of Ofcom will announce an appointment in the New Year.