Realising the full benefits of 5G is now one step closer

Due to the hard work of a range of industry players another band is ready to be auctioned off for mobile services.

A four-year £350 million infrastructure project recently came to an end, clearing the 700 MHz band. This important step will benefit rural connectivity and 5G and later today Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman will highlight this during his speech at 5G World, which is part of London Tech Week.

Why did this happen?

Compared to ten years ago a phone user’s on device activities have become more data hungry – such as steaming films and ordering shopping. Sending data to and from a user’s phone over the airwaves requires spectrum. Ofcom cleared the 700 MHz band to free up more spectrum to carry additional data. By moving incumbents (such as Freeview television) out of the band it is now free for other uses, including 4G and 5G.

It will not just benefit mobile phone users. It helps to enable companies to develop new high data usage technologies and services to help to boost sectors such as transport, healthcare, and logistics.

Why 700 MHz?

(condensed version) 700 MHz is counted as a low frequency band. It can carry mobile signals into buildings over long distances, including rural areas.

What was involved?

This was a complex task with lots of players involved. It included (but certainly wasn’t limited to) changing the frequency TV transmitters used, negotiating agreements with other countries to make sure UK spectrum use didn’t interfere with theirs and circa 20 million Freeview TV viewers retuning their TVs.

What next?

Ofcom will auction the band. They are aiming to start the formal process in November 2020 with bidding starting in January 2021. You can read more about the auction here.

Matthew Evans, Director of Markets, techUK said “The clearance of the 700 MHz band – a nationwide infrastructure programme that few people will ever hear of but was completed ahead of time and underbudget – is a key enabling step in revolutionising our connectivity through the delivery of widespread 5G coverage.”

You can read the press release, which includes quotes from the Minister, Ofcom, Arqiva and Digital UK, here.