New UK communications supra-regulator Ofcom plans to overhaul the way the broadcast spectrum is distributed.

The watchdog wants to introduce 'spectrum trading' and has begun a public consultation on the issue.

Under the existing system, the Radiocommunications Agency is responsible for overseeing the airwaves. The RA -- to be incorporated into Ofcom at the year-end -- splits the spectrum into segments, which are then allocated to radio and TV broadcasters, mobile phone operators, two-way radios and other communication services.

However, Ofcom wants companies to be able to buy, sell and trade their spectrum licences, believing this will help "stimulate" the communications environment.

"Spectrum trading," declared Ofcom ceo Stephen Carter, "will allow innovation and choice to shape the future allocation of spectrum, in place of the centrally planned, top-down approach of the past."

The regulator believes the proposed system will speed up the launch of new services like wireless broadband and improve use of the airwaves.

Ofcom plans to launch the new scheme in 2004 and bring it in gradually over four years.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff