Carve up of military airwaves planned to ease data capacity crunch

Chancellor Osborne rubbing his hands

Britain’s top brass are today [17th December 2012] expected to unveil plans to sell off military airwaves in a move that could simultaneously boost exchequer coffers and bolster the amount of 4G spectrum available.
Experts believe that as much as £1 billion could be raised from auctioning Ministry of Defence airwaves, adding to the £3.5 billion that Chancellor George Osborne hopes to accrue from the current 4G auction.
Until recently there was speculation that the current auction, in which the bidders are likely to be named this week, wouldn’t generate as much as anticipated if only because the UK’s biggest operator EE already has 4G. But then last week, in the Netherlands, a similar sale indicated the opposite when the government there raised €3.8 billion (£3 billion) from releasing spectrum.
Back in Britain where half of the most valuable spectrum is controlled by the government, most of it allocated for military use, a review has suggested that 500 MHz of the most valuable public sector spectrum could be released by 2020 to enable new mobile communications uses and avoid a data “capacity crunch.”
The Ministry of Defence (Mod) controls about three quarters of all state-held spectrum and a third of all spectrum below 15GHz which is used for secure communications, navigation as well as functions such as radar.
Previously the MoD has “loaned” its spectrum for use by others such as during the Olympics, where it allowed organisers to borrow communication frequencies.
The decision on just how much of the military’s airwaves will go under the hammer is expected to be announced later today, with preparations due to start at the end of 2013 and the auction completed by the summer of 2014.
Other government departments including the Home Office, Transport Department, Civil Aviation Authority and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, have similarly been asked to look for any spare spectrum capacity.

About Dave Evans

Dave Evans is a long established commentator on both the IT and cellular industries. His current focus is on share price trends within the sector. You can email him here
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