In its 2015 spending review and autumn statement, the United Kingdom’s government laid out plans to shell out $827 million (550 million pounds sterling) to buy back the country’s 700 Mhz spectrum from its current occupiers.
The government’s plan, which is scheduled to be carried out over the term of parliament that runs through 2020, will compensate existing broadcasters as it seeks to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband use, the document said.
The cost figure provided by the government on Friday is consistent with a range of 550 million pounds to 660 million pounds put forth by U.K. telecom regulator Ofcom in November of last year.
According to Ofcom, the spectrum transfer will include three major costs, including the modification of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) transmission infrastructure as those broadcasters are relocated; the cost to consumers to replace their DTT aerials or fit filters to their TVs; and the cost to programme makers and special events (PMSE) users who need to replace wireless microphones used for live coverage of events and train new engineers.
Despite the costs, Ofcom said the availability of more mobile broadband frequencies will bring the country benefits of 900 million pounds to 1.3 billion pounds as operators are able to meet demand more efficiently.
As detailed in Friday’s report, the U.K. government also has other mobile-related expenditures on its agenda.
The government said it plans to complete a 1.7 billion pound investment into the expansion of superfast broadband to “ensure it is available to 95% of premises by 2017.” The government also said Friday it plans to improve Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity on trains.
Friday’s statement also included a plan to invest nearly 1 billion pounds in building a new mobile digital technology through the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme. The new network will connect all emergency services on the same broadband network for the first time to “enable officers to access key police databases, take mobile fingerprints and electronic witness statements and stream live body-worn video – all while on the move.” The effort, the government said, will cut costs for the taxpayer and free up officer capacity.
The emergency services plan is reminiscent of the United States Federal Communications Commission’s 2012 FirstNet project, a planned nationwide network for first responders in the D block 700 MHz spectrum. Nearly $7 billion from the AWS-3 spectrum auction has been set aside for the network’s buildout, though doubts have arisen about the likelihood of completing the project at that price point. Recently, Evercore pegged U.S. carrier Verizon as the most likely to be chosen to complete the buildout.
To fully lay out its vision for the future of mobile in the country, the U.K. government said it will publish a full Digital Transformation Plan in early 2016.
Filed Under: Telecommunications (Spectrum)