Britain clears 700 MHz band of spectrum for 5G network

Britain has cleared its 700 MHz band of airwaves after a four-year programme that involved retuning nearly 20 million TV sets, freeing up new capacity to be auctioned for 5G mobile services in January 2021.
Vodafone UK image
The UK government said on Thursday that releasing the airwaves would help increase the total amount of the radio spectrum available for mobile services in the UK by nearly a fifth, Reuters reported.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “We have overseen a quiet revolution in the airwaves which will lead to better mobile coverage for rural communities and unlock new ways for 5G to boost business productivity and improve people’s lives.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July ordered Huawei equipment to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027.

Telecom regulator Ofcom said in August that its aim is to start the formal spectrum auction process in November, with a view to bidding starting in January 2021 – subject to new developments, including any potential litigation or changes to working restrictions related to Covid-19.

Ofcom said the auction will involve companies bidding for spectrum in two different frequency bands.

Ofcom is releasing 80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, following a four-year programme to clear the band of its existing uses for digital terrestrial TV and wireless microphones. These airwaves are ideal for providing good-quality mobile coverage, both indoors and across very wide areas – including the countryside.

Ofcom is also releasing 120 MHz of spectrum in 3.6-3.8 GHz band, which is part of the primary band for 5G and capable of carrying lots of data-hungry connections in concentrated areas.

All four of the biggest mobile operators have launched 5G in the last year and releasing these airwaves will help increase the capacity and quality of mobile data services, Ofcom said in a statement in August.