It's not quite Open Spectrum--call it Open Market Spectrum: UK airwaves regulator Ofcom wants to free itself and the industries it works with from onerous and outdate regulatory oversight, it's said. The agency's head of research proposes reducing its oversight of spectrum from 94 percent of radio frequencies down to about 21 percent by 2010.
It proposes to carry this out by relying on market forces to handle use and change of use. It's a gutsy idea, but not as gutsy as Open Spectrum. Still, it's an enormous change in the way that a regulatory authority would handle administering the airwaves. It would bring money into the coffers of the empire by allowing spectrum to be traded more freely. Because most telecommunications services have some taxation, it's clear that Ofcom hopes making it easier to use spectrum more flexibly will result in greater revenue from spectrum for UK firms at a lower cost to the government to manage.
Ofcom will phase in its liberalization (or liberalisation). First, trading will be allowed. Then, over the next three years, certain restrictions on changing the use of a licensed band will be removed. From 2005 to 2010, additional bands and spectrum will fall under free trading and change rules.
An important note from the roadmap at Ofcom's Web site: Throughout, Ofcom will also continue to auction released and returned spectrum allocations on a business-as-usual basis. So there's certainly joy in unhitching bands from purposes.
Peter Judge picks at the issue that only seven percent of spectrum by 2010 will be unlicensed, a tiny fraction up from the current pot. But the head of research notes that 5 GHz is still totally underexploited--true in the U.S., too, and that the agency is looking into approving higher signal strengths in rural areas to make it easier to run broadband wireless links.