Ofcom to 'auction' airwaves


Ofcom to 'auction' airwaves
Ofcom today revealed it intends to auction off valuable radio spectrum which will be freed-up following the switchover to digital television.

Britain's media regulator confirmed the sell-off of the so-called "digital dividend" is due to take place in 2009.

The spectrum is in the sought-after UHF band currently used by terrestrial television broadcasters, with Ofcom revealing transmissions within the band cover large geographical areas with relatively few transmitters and also penetrate buildings.

"This makes the digital dividend the highest quality spectrum likely to be released in the UK in the next ten or 20 years," the media watchdog stressed in a statement.

Ofcom says demand for spectrum is continually growing as a result of changes to technology and consumer trends.

The spectrum which will be auctioned off is suitable to support several services, including ultra-fast wireless broadband, mobile television, additional digital TV channels and local television, according to the organisation.

But one part of the spectrum will be reserved for the use of wireless microphones within the programme-making and special events sector, Ofcom confirmed.

The regulator said there was a "compelling case" for part of the spectrum to be set aside, revealing it would hold a "beauty contest" over which relevant parties would be awarded bandwidth.

Concerns had previously been expressed that if spectrum was not reserved for such use, key events such as the 2012 London Olympics could be affected. Ofcom is anticipating huge demand for radio spectrum from both the media and event officials during the games.

Commenting on the planned auction, Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: "The digital dividend will be one of the most significant and valuable spectrum releases in the UK for 20 years.

"We can expect the benefits of the digital dividend to include more choice, fresh competition and technological innovation," he added.

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