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Ofcom: 5G necessary to beat "capacity crunch"

Ofcom today announced plans to expand the UK's current mobile spectrum beyond its current boundaries, with the creation of a 5G space intended to help deal with the looming "capacity crunch" caused by the enormous surge in data usage over recent years.

As more and more people are using smartphones and tablets to connect to the Internet and conduct data intensive activities such as streaming films on the move, the existing mobile spectrum is expected to buckle under the pressure, according to the agency.

Apparently, the amount of data Britons consume on the move each month has hit 20 million gigabytes - more than twice as much as last year (9 million gigabytes), which is the equivalent of downloading 5 billion music tracks.

Despite the UK only just launching its first 4G service last month promising super-fast mobile Internet, Ofcom CEO Ed Richards claimed it will not be enough to meet future data demands, which are estimated to be 80 times higher by 2013.

'Within the coming months we will hold the UK's largest-ever auction of mobile spectrum for 4G. However, that may not be enough to meet consumers' future data demands, which is why we are already making significant efforts to prepare to go beyond 4G," he said.

To cope with this "capacity crunch," Ofcom has drawn up plans to open up the 700MHz frequency band - currently used by digital terrestrial television - to mobile networks by 2018 as part of a global initiative to bring together frequencies for mobile users. The idea is for different countries to use the same spectrum frequency to improve efficiency across mobile networks and reduce the cost of handsets.

"Our plans are designed to avoid a 'capacity crunch', ensuring that the UK's mobile infrastructure can continue to support the inescapable growth in consumer demand and economic growth more generally," added Richards.