Better mobile coverage and more spectrum are Ofcom's 2018 priorities

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Ofcom has made better mobile coverage and making more mobile spectrum available to the industry two of its priorities for the upcoming year.

The regulator is currently holding an auction of 2.6GHz and 3.4GHz airwaves but in its Annual Report for 2018-19 it confirmed it is preparing for the release of 700MHz spectrum used by Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and the 3.6-3.8GHz bands.

It is also looking at the future use of the 3.8 - 4.2GHz frequencies to see how it can be shared between existing and new users.

Ofcom priorities

Some of these bands could have coverage obligations attached to any licence awarded, something Ofcom is considering for the 700MHz band which could be put up for sale in late 2019. That band in particular is seen as a way of expanding coverage to areas not served adequately at present, while other bands could improve capacity or be useful for fixed wireless backhaul.

“We will continue to undertake application and band specific analysis on specific sectors’ use of spectrum to support our strategic reviews and inform our policy,” said the regulator.

Elsewhere, Ofcom said it wanted to support the rollout of ‘full fibre’ networks and the planned 10Mbps universal service obligation. This could have implications for mobile operators who could sue the terrestrial infrastructure densify their wireless networks with masts and small cells.

In all cases, Ofcom said it wanted to ensure a favourable investment environment for both fixed and mobile operators to facilitate the wider availability of fibre to the premise (FTTP) and 5G.

The watchdog will also work with the UK government to safeguard the communications industry, UK businesses and consumers’ interests throughout the Brexit process. It said it would consider the possible impact of changing legislation that has until now been aligned with the EU.

“Ofcom takes no view on the means or merits of Brexit,” it explained. “But we fully support the Government’s desire for continued effective regulation, delivered through close collaboration with European partners. We are providing advice to UK Government on topics related to the sectors we regulate, and we will continue providing support to Government in its negotiations going forward.”

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