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Ofcom grants mobile phone operators right to trade radio spectrum to expand capacity

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has given mobile phone operators rights to trade radio spectrum holdings to help increase mobile network capacity for consumers.

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has given mobile phone operators rights to trade radio spectrum holdings to help increase mobile network capacity for consumers.

Mobile operators can now trade 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz spectrum to help meet smartphone and internet usage demand from users.

"It will allow operators with a greater need for spectrum to make offers for spectrum from those who need it less. It is hoped that this added flexibility will help operators to respond more efficiently to demand," said Ofcom.

Ofcom said some mobile operators acquired licences for blocks of spectrum, leaving other operators with reduced ability to carry higher volumes of internet traffic over its networks.

"By allowing operators to trade their spectrum, Ofcom believes that there will be greater opportunity to use it more efficiently. Ultimately, it is believed that this will bring benefits to citizens and consumers in terms of improved mobile services," added Ofcom.

A spokesman for mobile network operator Three was sceptical about the announcement.

"Spectrum is the lifeblood of smartphones and the mobile internet and for those with surplus holdings it is also a strategic asset, so voluntary trading is the exception. This move simply allows those who have been gifted access to public spectrum to profit from it, with no benefit for UK taxpayers," said the spokesman.

"Ofcom's ambition to deliver faster and more capable services to consumers is best served by a truly competitive allocation of this public asset," he added.

Earlier this month, mobile network operator O2 warned the UK could fall further behind in the construction of high-speed mobile networks if Ofcom's plans for a radio spectrum auction in 2012 go ahead.

Roll-out of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK is expected to begin in 2013, providing capacity for the fourth generation 4G mobile technology and faster broadband services,

The government instructed Ofcom to make mobile spectrum licences tradable in December 2010.

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