Précis Ofcom has published a consultation proposing that the need for Ofcom to consent to certain transfers of spectrum licences be removed and extending the ability to transfer all or part of a licence holder’s spectrum under a Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 licence in the maritime and satellite earth station classes.

What? Ofcom intends to introduce two new regulations in the form of the Wireless Telegraphy (Spectrum Trading) Regulations 2012 (the “Proposed Trading Regulations”) and the Wireless Telegraphy (Register) Regulations 2012 (the “Proposed Register Regulations”).

These new regulations will revoke and replace the current Wireless Telegraphy (Spectrum Trading) Regulations 2004 (as amended) (the “2004 Trading Regulations”) and the Wireless Telegraphy (Register) Regulations 2004 (as amended) (the “2004 Register Regulations”). Many of the existing regulations will be consolidated in the new instruments.

So what? Spectrum trading has two forms that allow licence holders of certain wireless telegraphy licences to either transfer or lease the use of the spectrum allocated to them under their wireless telegraphy licences. Spectrum transfers can be outright (meaning that the transferor does not maintain the right to make use of the spectrum being transferred) or concurrent (meaning that both the transferor and transferee will have rights to use the spectrum once the transfer has taken place) of all or part of the licensed spectrum.

A lease of spectrum rights is achieved on a purely contractual basis and proceeds without Ofcom’s involvement. However, the provisions of the licence must permit leasing to take place. The proposal being put forward by Ofcom under the Proposed Trading Regulations only relates to the transfer of spectrum rights. Ofcom is considering extending the ability to transfer the following classes of licence:

  • Coastal Station Radio (International);
  • Coastal Station Radio (UK);
  • Coastal Station Radio (International) Area Defined;
  • Coastal Station Radio (UK) Area Defined;
  • Coastal Station Radio (Marina);
  • Coastal Station Radio (Training School);
  • Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS);
  • Maritime Radio (Suppliers and Demonstration);
  • Permanent Earth Station (PES);
  • Transportable Earth Station (TES);
  • Satellite (Earth Station Network);
  • Satellite (Earth Station) (Non-Fixed Satellite Service);
  • Satellite (Earth Station) (Non-Geostationary);
  • Satellite (Complementary Ground Components of a Mobile Satellite System); and
  • Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Repeaters.

It is important to note that, whilst the Proposed Trading Regulations introduce the ability for licensees to transfer all or part of their spectrum holdings, they are in no way mandated to do so. The proposal being put forward by Ofcom will therefore have no impact on current wireless spectrum licensees in the above classes that do not wish to engage in the transfer of their licensed spectrum. The extent to which each of the above licences will be able to be partially transferred will also differ.

In addition to extending the ability to transfer wireless telegraph spectrum, it is also Ofcom’s intention to simplify the spectrum trading process. The current process comprises several steps, including: advance notification of trades, obtaining Ofcom’s consent, publication of details of the proposal and the actual transfers with the issue of the new licences. Ofcom is concerned that these requirements may be holding back developments in this market and has therefore proposed that the requirement for Ofcom to consent to the transfer of most wireless telegraphy licences be removed to help address this situation.

To implement the introduction of the spectrum transfer changes referred to earlier, Ofcom also intends to create the Proposed Register Regulations. The Proposed Register Regulations will allow for the publication of certain information necessary to support the new transfer processes as well as provide information to the market on the newly transferable licence products. The information will be published electronically in the online Wireless Telegraphy Register.