Ofcom has opened a consultation on potential measures for ensuring that the UK’s mobile networks have enough data capacity to meet the ever-growing demand.

The UK telecoms watchdog said that a range of measures were on the table at this stage, including re-purposing specific spectrum bands for superfast 5G data transfers. The demand for higher capacity on the networks will see data consumption rise by more than 25 times by 2030, Ofcom estimates.

The identified bands (2.3GHz/3.4GHz and 700MHZ) are currently in use by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and digital terrestrial TV broadcasts respectively. However, Ofcom has said that the MoD’s usage could be moved elsewhere and these bands could go up for auction (thus providing the potential for more capacity) as early as 2015-2016. Any repurposing of the 700MHz TV band is unlikely to happen before 2018, Ofcom said.

If the bands are eventually put up for auction for use by mobile operators, the capacity on offer will be more than seven times the amount of 4G LTE spectrum that was auctioned off in the 2.6GHz and 800MHz bands.

White space and radar

Ofcom also plans to run a trial of white space use with 20 organizations over the course of the next six months which will see “a variety of innovative applications [being] tested – ranging from sensors that monitor the behaviour of cities, to dynamic information for road users and rural broadband in hard to reach places”.

The organisation said it was also looking in to whether the UK Government could reorganize the 2.7 GHz radar band to potentially release up to 100 MHz of spectrum for other uses, which could include mobile broadband.

While it’s obviously early days in terms of talking next-generation (5G) rollouts just yet – the technical definition for what ‘5G’ refers to hasn’t even been set – the UK (in conjunction with Huawei and other companies) has been working on research already, clearly having no intention of being behind the rest of Europe and the US, as it largely was with its 4G auction and rollout.

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