The radio spectrum (the invisible waves that enable wireless technology) is a finite resource crucial to delivering a range of commercial and public services. Ofcom has the job of making sure it is used in the best interests of everyone in the UK.
Spectrum underpins our modern lives. Without it we wouldn’t have mobile phones, TV and radio, radar and emergency services. The growth in wireless connectivity is changing the way we live and work and posing new challenges for our Spectrum group.
Wireless services are one of the most dynamic areas of the UK economy, with new applications and uses emerging including drones, industrial automation and healthcare.
Because we cannot create more radio spectrum we must make the most efficient use of it to enable existing services to grow and to accommodate new, innovative applications. This is the role of the Spectrum Group – to plan and manage the many different uses of spectrum to promote the best social and economic value for the UK.
We take a strategic approach to managing this valuable resource mixing market mechanism and regulatory intervention as appropriate to develop and implementall aspects of spectrum management in the UK. Because wireless technology is used globally, we also represent UK interests internationally. We work to keep the airwaves free of interference so the increasing range of applications and services that require access to the radio spectrum are able to operate effectively.
Our spectrum colleagues have many different skill sets and experiences – including radio frequency engineers, technology specialists, policy leads, international negotiators, stakeholder and relationship managers, and operational field teams. What we all have in common is an enquiring mind, an appetite for problem solving and, most importantly, the ability to work together.
The different teams
There are many different roles and areas of work within the Spectrum group.
Policy and strategy development
We work with a wide range of industry and academics to understand how market trends and changing demand are shaping future spectrum needs. This includes understanding the evolutionary path of current spectrum use as well as identifying new emerging demand.
Many decisions about the use of spectrum are made globally and in this area we build international relationships and negotiate with our counterparts from around the world to make sure relevant regulatory frameworks and accompanying international spectrum decisions best reflect UK interests..
Spectrum management and licensing
We support spectrum users on a daily basis in understanding what they are authorised to do and in monitoring their developing spectrum needs. We manage changes to their requirements and maintain almost half a million spectrum licences along with the technical and administrative tools that make this possible.
Maintaining the records of spectrum licensees in the UK, making sure we know who is responsible for using which radio frequencies is essential for our future strategies and interference management.
Spectrum engineering and planning
We use a broad range of technical expertise to monitor and make sure different spectrum users can coexist without interference. This requires knowledge of how different radio systems work for example across cellular, broadcasting and satellite networks through to air traffic control and radar. We model how different radio technologies interact with each other to inform our regulatory decision-making and also carry out detailed planning to enable services to share spectrum in specific locations.
Making sure spectrum is used legally and efficiently
We work around the country monitoring the use of radio spectrum, investigating causes of interference affecting wireless users, identifying unlicensed use, and understanding usage to inform future policy. We also monitor the types of radio equipment on the market and where equipment is being sold or used illegally we take steps to remove it, including taking enforcement action where required.