UK network operators can now trade rights to radio spectrum

The UK’s mobile network capacity could increase following Ofcom’s decision this week to allow operators to trade their rights to the radio spectrum.

The communications regulator hopes that allowing network operators to trade the blocks of radio spectrum that they own will allow them to use it more efficiently and deliver faster and more reliable mobile services for consumers.

In general, the more spectrum an operator holds, the more telephone conversations and internet traffic it can carry over its network.

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 hopes that adding more flexibility to the system could help operators to respond more efficiently to demand.

The new regulations, which cover spectrum at 900MHz, 1,800MHz and 2,100MHz, will allow operators with a greater need for spectrum to make offers for spectrum from those who need it less.

The government directed Ofcom to make mobile spectrum licences tradeable in December 2010, as part of a wider initiative to promote improvements in mobile services. Ofcom has now made the regulations necessary for this to happen.

Ofcom will be responsible for the administration of spectrum trades, publishing the details of proposed trades online, confirming that they are acceptable, and then issuing revised licences to implement the trades.