Wireless spectrum a boon for UK economy, finds study

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Spectrum contributed £52 billion to the United Kingdom's economy in 2011, according to a Nov. 5 report commissioned jointly by two UK departments.

As a finite resource, spectrum's value increased along with the demand for it, according to report authors. A 2006 evaluation of UK spectrum valued the commodity at £35.2 billion--meaning spectrum's value increased 25 percent in just 5 years.

The economic contribution among spectrum-using industries varies, however. Mobile operators contributed £30.2 billion to the economy in 2011, while television broadcasters contributed £7.7 billion, find report authors. The wireless industry also contributed 117,500 jobs to the UK economy, according to the report.

The public mobile sector's contribution to the UK economy in 2011 was 16 to 32 percent higher than in 2006--when considering the monetary benefit provided to consumers from these services and the industry's gain from surplus, say authors. The report suggests the sector's contribution to the UK economy will only grow in the coming years.

Report authors encourage the UK government to do everything necessary to meet its goal of releasing 500 megahertz of spectrum for commercial use by 2020. And while spectrum for wireless use has the most potential to create value, authors also note that spectrum is most valuable when it is harmonized internationally.

"A programme of release therefore needs to go hand in hand with international efforts to agree bands for this use," write authors.

Freeing up spectrum isn't just a focus for the United Kingdom and the United States, which has made spectrum allocation a core part of its National Broadband Plan. The Canadian government also recently announced steps to make additional spectrum available for mobile services.

The Canadian government plans to set aside the 700 megahertz spectrum band, previously used for analog over-the-air television broadcasting, for wireless and also auction off the 2500 megahertz band of spectrum. A portion of the spectrum to be auctioned off will be designated for first responders and rural services, according to the plan.

For more:
- read the UK government report, "Impact of radio spectrum on the UK economy and factors influencing future spectrum demand"

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