Ofcom has published plans to ensure that UK mobile phone networks are able to support the ever-increasing demand for mobile data capacity. It’s also published new information that shows mobile data usage has more than doubled in the past 12 months; up from 9 million gigabytes last year to 20 million GB.
By 2030, it’s thought that demand for mobile data could be 80 times higher than today. To meet this requirement, the UK needs more mobile spectrum and more efficient usage.
Ofcom is planning to ensure additional radio spectrum can be made available for existing mobile technologies and for the potential introduction of fifth-generation ‘5G’ mobile services as well. It’s aiming to take advantage of the 700MHz frequency band, which is currently used for digital terrestrial television (DTT) and could be released to mobile networks without the need for another TV switchover.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said “Within the coming months we will hold the UK’s largest-ever auction of mobile spectrum for 4G. However, that may not be enough to meet consumers’ future data demands, which is why we are already making significant efforts to prepare to go beyond 4G. Our plans are designed to avoid a ‘capacity crunch’, ensuring that the UK’s mobile infrastructure can continue to support the inescapable growth in consumer demand and economic growth more generally.”
The new Ofcom plans would ensure that alternative frequencies - probably in the 600MHz band - are available for DTT towards the end of the decade. Most TV viewers would simply need to retune their TV equipment when this happens. These changes would require international agreement, which is expected to be finalised in 2015. Any frequency changes would be unlikely to happen before 2018.