UK regulator Ofcom says licenses for unused 2100 MHz (1900-1920 MHz) spectrum may be revoked the and the spectrum reallocated.

Andrew Wooden

March 23, 2023

2 Min Read
Ofcom considering revoking unpaired 2100 MHz spectrum

UK regulator Ofcom says licenses for unused 2100 MHz (1900-1920 MHz) spectrum may be revoked the and the spectrum reallocated.

Ofcom says the current non-use (a bizarrely Orwellian turn of phrase) of the unpaired 2100 MHz spectrum for public mobile services and EE’s potential use of its 4G licence for the ESN Gateway ‘may not be optimal because there may be other higher value users of the spectrum.’

It’s provisional view is that there is potential for the spectrum to be used by emergency services, railways or the utilities sector. It suggests there may be other spectrum frequencies capable of supporting the ESN Gateway and is apparently doing ‘further technical work’ to assess this.

The unpaired 2100 MHz spectrum was auctioned together with the paired 2100 MHz spectrum in 2000, as part of the 3G launch. The licences were initially granted for a fixed period of 20 years, says Ofcom. EE, 3 and O2 currently hold the unpaired 2100 MHz spectrum and you can peruse a handy chart showing this is detail below:


The report, which you can read in full here should you be so inclined, states that: “The unpaired 2100 MHz spectrum has remained unused since 2000 with no planned future use for public mobile services (except potentially for the ESN Gateway). In the context of our duties relevant to our spectrum management functions, we place particular weight on the duty to ensure optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum. We therefore consider that our policy objective when considering the future use of the band should be to assess optimal use.

“We interpret optimal use to mean spectrum is used in a way that maximises the benefits that people, businesses and other organisations derive from its use, including the wider social value of spectrum. In assessing this, we have had regard to the interests of everyone who may wish to use the spectrum for wireless telegraphy, including how optimal use can be achieved in an efficient and timely manner. We have also considered the desirability of encouraging investment to enable citizens and consumers to benefit from the development of/investment in new wireless services.”

However, before it ploughs in and starts revoking and reallocating willy-nilly, the regulator is inviting voices from the industry to get back to it with feedback on the matter by 25 May 2023. After that, Ofcom plans to make its decisions on the matter known in early 2024. Presumably the parties most keen to provide feedback on the potential allocation rethink are the three operators that currently own the unpaired spectrum.


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About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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