Spectrum management

We carry out strategic work in spectrum management, including making sufficient spectrum available for 5G, spectrum clearance, spectrum awards and many other on-going projects.

Key spectrum-related work areas for the current year are:

  • Awarding the 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum bands
  • Implementing the strategy for 700MHz change of use
  • Preparing to make sufficient spectrum available for 5G
  • Supporting Government in the expansion of digital radio
  • Implementing spectrum policy for existing licensed use (including a fees review for the fixed link and satellite earth station sectors, changes to the DECT Guard Band licences and work on UHF 1&2 bands).

You can read more details about these projects further down this page.

Our Annual Plan also sets out our broader programme of ongoing work. This includes:

  • Studies to inform future requirements for spectrum (including a focus on mobile data, on the satellite and space science sectors and on fixed wireless uses)
  • Spectrum authorisation (including work on sharing in the 3.6-3.8 GHz and 3.8-4.2 GHz bands)
  • Spectrum assurance and enforcement

Strategic work

We are preparing to make sufficient spectrum available for 5G. We are also playing a critical role in international discussions on bands for 5G in CEPT and ITU. In addition, we will be preparing for the next World Radiocommunications Conference in 2019 where spectrum bands for 5G are expected to be identified globally.

Our Update on 5G spectrum in the UK PDF, 2.9 MB provides an update on international developments, and the programme of work that has been initiated with regards to making spectrum available for 5G.

Our mobile data strategy is our long term strategy to address the increasing use of data by mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. There are a number of ways to increase the capacity of mobile networks to deal with this growth, such as more efficient technology and greater use of small cells, but use of additional spectrum is likely to be part of the solution. Our mobile data strategy identifies spectrum bands for potential mobile use and prioritises our efforts on these. It describes what we plan to do to better understand the possibilities for each band, and, where appropriate, ensure there is an option for future mobile use. We updated our strategy in June 2016 to take into account new developments such as developments in 5G technology.

We have consulted on our space spectrum strategy, which sets out Ofcom’s proposed strategy for the management of spectrum used by the satellite and space science (including earth observation) sectors. These sectors deliver important benefits to UK citizens and consumers, such as broadcast TV, global positioning, communications to ships and aircraft, satellite imagery and information about our climate. There is potential for greater benefits in the future and, once confirmed, the strategy will shape the prioritisation of our work in these sectors over the coming years.

Our Space Spectrum Strategy covers the use of spectrum by the satellite and space science sectors, including meteorological and earth observation satellites.

These sectors already deliver important benefits and our strategy sets out the priorities on which we will focus to enable even greater benefits in the future:

  • Enabling growth in satellite broadband;
  • Enabling earth observation growth; and
  • Recognising the existing benefits of satellite and space science whilst exploring opportunities for new uses.

Delivery of these priorities sits alongside our on-going activities in these sectors, including management of satellite filings and earth station licensing.

Details relating to the development of our current Space Spectrum Strategy are available here:

2015 Strategic review of satellite and space science use of spectrum - Call for input

2016 Space spectrum strategy consultation

2017 Space spectrum statement

We have undertaken a strategic review of spectrum requirements for Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE). The review has delivered a spectrum strategy to ensure users of wireless cameras and video links (video PMSE) continue to have access to sufficient spectrum to support their activities.

For audio PMSE the review delivered a new spectrum sharing option for low power audio PMSE devices such as wireless microphones with aeronautical radio navigation services in the 960 to 1164 MHz band.

Our 2016 Statement, A framework for spectrum sharing, sets out a framework that we will use to assess spectrum sharing opportunities. This framework will support all our spectrum authorisation decisions in response to growing demand for spectrum access.

The framework is relevant to any spectrum band and any new demand to use spectrum, but whether applying the framework leads to proposals for sharing in any given case will depend on its specific circumstances.

In 2010 we published our Strategic Review of Spectrum Pricing, which set out the general principles and methodology that we use to set spectrum fees, known generically as 'spectrum pricing'. This review includes both AIP fees based on the opportunity cost of the spectrum used, and fees that reflect our costs.

Our 2014 statement, Spectrum Pricing: A framework for setting cost based fees, builds on the 2010 strategic review. The statement sets out our decision to adopt a Wireless Telegraphy Act fees framework and cost allocation methodology for licence classes where we apply cost based fees.

From time to time Ofcom undertakes activities to clear existing authorised users to help make spectrum available for new uses (clearance). We may also work with existing users to consider how they can co-exist with new uses by managing any potential interference (co-existence).

Ofcom is currently in the process of clearing the 700MHz band to make it available for mobile data services. Information relating to the current 700MHz clearance programme is provided below.

Previous clearance and co-existence activities relating to the 800MHz band can be found at the National Archives.

Ofcom has a duty to secure the optimal use of the radio spectrum. A key part of achieving this is to release available spectrum to the market, generally by means of an auction.

Ongoing projects

The 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum is needed to provide additional capacity to meet growing consumer demand for mobile broadband. It is important that the frequencies are made available as quickly as possible for the benefit of consumers and industry.

We have already consulted on other aspects of this award and the matters discussed in this document therefore represent the last issues on which we need to conclude before the auction can proceed.

Update 20|07|16

Following the European Commission's decision to block the proposed acquisition of O2 by CK Hutchison (H3G), Ofcom intends to publish in the autumn a further consultation on competition measures and on specific aspects of auction design for the award of the 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum bands.

On the 3rd December 2015, Ofcom published an update on the public sector spectrum release relating to our decision to delay commencing the auction process until the European Commission has announced its decision as to whether the proposed merger between Telefonica UK Limited and Hutchison 3G UK Limited is compatible with the common market.

As part of our strategy to increase the total amount of spectrum available and support the growing demand for wireless services that will deliver wider consumer and citizen benefits, we are moving forward with plans to award 190 MHz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands. This forms part of the Government's commitment to release 500 MHz of spectrum under 5 GHz from the public to the private sector by 2020.

We published a consultation on this award in November 2014. It set out two possible auction designs, a competition assessment and draft licence conditions. We proposed holding an auction and making the award by the end of the financial year 2015/16.

We published a further statement and consultation on 26 May 2015 including our conclusions on technical and non-technical licence conditions and auction design and an option of flexibility in the amount of spectrum we auction.

We published a statement in October 2015 on competition and auction design issues for the 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum award, including the reserve prices that will apply. We have also published draft regulations and an information memorandum. As part of our preparations for an award we will also invite prospective bidders to participate in mock auctions.

In addition to the 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands, we are working with Government to consider which further spectrum used by the public sector might be available and suitable for sharing with a range of other applications.

On 19 November 2014, Ofcom published a statement setting out our decision to make the 700 MHz band available for mobile data.

The 700 MHz band is currently used for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) services, and White Space devices.

The change will involve moving these services from the 700 MHz band to other frequencies, while continuing to secure the benefits they deliver. Using the band for mobile services will result in significant benefits to citizens and consumers with better and cheaper mobile broadband services.

Our objective is to make the band available for mobile as soon as practicable, by 2022 at the latest. On 11 March, we published a consultation on maximising the benefits of 700 MHz clearance. This set out proposals which would enable us to bring forward the point at which this spectrum is nationally available for mobile data to a target of no later than Q2 2020.

We also published a Call for Input on 31 March on managing the effects of clearance on DTT viewers and PMSE users.

Update 08|02|17

The first regional clearance events to clear the 700 MHz band of digital terrestrial television will be in Summer 2017. We have published an update setting out the timelines and associated preparations for clearance.

700 MHz clearance update PDF, 424.5 KB

White spaces are the name given to parts of spectrum that are unused in a particular location and time. TV white spaces exist between airwaves primarily used for digital terrestrial TV broadcasting (470 MHz to 790 MHz).

Use of these white spaces will allow devices to transmit and receive wireless signals for applications such as broadband access for rural communities, Wi-Fi-like services or new machine-to-machine networks.

Compared with other forms of wireless technologies, such as regular Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the radio waves used by white space devices will be able to travel larger distances and easily through walls as they would use UHF frequencies.

Following completion of a Pilot, Ofcom will now implement commercial white space use aiming for the framework authorising commercial use of white space technology to be in place later in 2015. This will enable the use of new wireless applications to benefit consumers and businesses across the country.

The use of white space technology will be one way of meeting the growing demand for mobile data in the UK.

Ofcom made regulations on 18 December 2015 which enable licence exempt use of white space devices in the 470 - 790 MHz band. The regulations came into force on 31 December 2015.

Additionally, on 25 September 2015, Ofcom published a statement confirming its decision to license manually configurable white space devices. This licensing regime is expected to become operational from February 2016.

Licensing your manually configurable white space devices

TV white space databases

For all TV White Spaces correspondence, please email us via our dedicated TV White Spaces inbox: TVWSManager@ofcom.org.uk