Ofcom plans Olympic role for spectrum

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Ofcom to reserve 2.6GHz spectrum for wireless camera applications during London 2012 Olympic Games despite 2011 commercial auction

Communications regulator Ofcom is planning to reserve the 2.6GHz spectrum for use for wireless camera applications during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The 2.6GHz spectrum is to be auctioned off in tandem with the 800MHz band at the end of next year after the government proceeded with plans to enhance 4G services and mobile broadband in the UK with new spectrum allocation, predominantly freed up by the move from analogue to digital television services.

Ofcom said it is now proposing to reserve the 2.6GHz band from June 28, 2012 to September 23, 2012 in order to meet the anticipated demand for wireless camera applications, including airborne television coverage and 3D television services, before, during and after the 2012 Olympic Games.

It would require the exclusion of new services using the spectrum within the area of London bound by the M25 motorway throughout this period, as well as at other geographical locations depending on demand at other Olympic venues around the UK.

Any auction next year would proceed as normal under Ofcom’s proposal, and awards would include a stipulation covering the temporary exclusion. Ofcom added that non-operational trials and tests of mobile or broadband data services using 2.6GHz spectrum may be possible during the exclusion period if they can be coordinated with wireless camera use within the exclusion zones.

Ofcom has now started a four week consultation to gather feedback from interested parties on its proposals, which it said are “relatively uncontentious”.

The Government has already guaranteed the International Olympic Committee that sufficient spectrum will be made available for wireless camera use during the Games. However, the 2.6GHz spectrum was not included in Ofcom’s spectrum plan for the 2012 Olympic Games, published in October 2009, as plans to make it available for commercial use were unclear at the time.

In a statement, Ofcom said: “The Government’s plans for an award process have now been clarified, and the award of these frequencies is now expected at the end of 2011.

“In addition, an upgrade programme to radars at 2.7GHz is required to permit widespread deployment of mobile or broadband services at 2.6GHz, and this programme is unlikely to be complete before the end of 2012.

“We therefore believe that the opportunity cost of reserving this band for the London 2012 Games has reduced significantly. There appears little realistic prospect of using 2.6GHz to deploy new mobile or broadband data services widely to UK citizens and consumers before the Games; and not reserving the band for the London 2012 Games, in the absence of any significant deployment of new mobile or broadband data services, could be a serious loss to the broadcasting coverage of the Games and to citizens and consumers in the UK and worldwide.”

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