New spectrum licences set to spur UK innovation

01 October 2020

People in the UK can look forward to new wireless technologies in the future thanks to changes made today by Ofcom.

Organisations in the UK can now obtain simple, flexible access to over 18 GHz of extremely high frequency (EHF) airwaves – which can be used for developing new wireless technology. Sectors which could make use of these airwaves include healthcare, robotics, communications and security.

These bands are currently used by earth exploration-satellite services to collect weather and climate data. So, we’ve put measures in place which will protect these satellite users while enabling new users to develop and utilise innovative technologies.

Making this spectrum available will open up new opportunities to develop wireless services across a range of industries. These frequencies are well suited for high-speed wireless services over short distances that need large capacity to work.

Potential new services could include:

  • health screening applications - helping early detection of conditions such as skin cancer;
  • Very high speed, high capacity data links over short distances – supporting use of 3D imaging, holograms and future internet of things (IoT) applications;
  • high precision product assembly and quality assurance – for example to check for defects in manufactured pharmaceuticals; and

These new uses could become available over the next decade.

People and organisations can apply for the new licences from today on the Ofcom website .

This is part of our ongoing work to support wireless innovation, by making sure people and organisations can easily access the spectrum they need.

What is spectrum?

Spectrum, or airwaves, is the invisible infrastructure that supports all devices that need to communicate wirelessly – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites. It is crucial for services such as mobile phones, which use spectrum to connect to a local mast so people can make calls and access the internet.

Only a limited amount of spectrum is available, so it needs to be managed carefully. Ofcom is responsible for managing UK spectrum to maximise the benefits of UK consumers.