Ofcom has completed the clearance of the 700MHz band on time and under-budget, paving the way for the spectrum to be auctioned for 4G and 5G services.
5G networks will use a more diverse range of spectrum than any previous mobile generation because of the need to support multiple use cases such as mobile Internet and the Industrial Internet of Things.
In addition to low-band frequencies like 700MHz and 800MHz, 5G will also be powered by high-band airwaves such as 26MHz millimetre Wave (mmWave) that offer huge capacity over short distances and mid-band spectrum like 3.4GHz that is a compromise between coverage and capacity.
700MHz spectrum auction
700Mhz had been used for Freeview Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services but the band had long been identified as hugely valuable for mobile services because of its long range and high indoor penetration.
The programme to migrate DTT signals to new frequencies started in 2012. Ofcom worked with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, transmitter operator Arqiva, and TV broadcasters and industry associations to complete the work.
The reason the project has taken so many years is because of the desire to minimise disruption. Transmitters had to be altered and viewers had to be made aware of the changes, with a small fraction needing new aerials.
Ofcom also avoided making any changes during major sporting events and had to work with other international regulators to ensure the frequencies did not interfere with foreign services.
The completion of the project paves the way for the auction of licences next January. The process had been delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic.