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MoD to auction off radio spectrum in first such sale by Government department

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to auction off some of its radio spectrum to telecoms firms, the Government department has announced.

The MoD said that approximate 200MHz of frequency band that it owns will be made available in what would be the "first direct sale of its kind" by a department of Government. It said the spectrum to be sold, which is all below the 15GHz frequency, could be used by mobile operators to deliver '4G' broadband services or by fixed-line operators to deliver wireless broadband access.

The term '4G' is generally used to refer to mobile broadband services delivered using the next generation of mobile broadband technologies; including Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX. LTE technical standards make more efficient use of radio spectrum, which makes them ideally suited for the high bandwidth data services including video streaming, social networking and GPS and mapping services used by smartphones and laptops.

Spectrum below the 15GHz frequency is "regarded as the most useful and valuable part of the radio spectrum because of its wide range of applications," MoD said in a statement. It said demand is growing for radio spectrum because of the rise in the use of "spectrum-hungry devices such as smartphones and tablets".

The MoD said that the spectrum to be sold would first be "cleared of military users" and would help contribute to a target the Government previously outlined to make at least 500MHz of publicly-owned spectrum below the 5GHz frequency available for mobile communication uses by 2020. The MoD owns around 75% of all publicly-owned spectrum, it said.

"We welcome this opportunity to free up much-needed spectrum," Defence Minister Philip Dunne said. "We hope that the sale will help drive the roll-out of new generation networks and universal access to broadband, both of which are vital to the UK’s prosperity."

The MoD said that the auction will be completed by summer 2014, with "preparations" for the process due to start at the end of next year.

Ofcom opened the applications process for a separate radio spectrum auction earlier this month. The spectrum, in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, is a combination of high and low frequencies which Ofcom has claimed will enable mobile operators to offer widespread mobile coverage at faster speeds. Bidding in the auction is due to begin in January.

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