LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's defence ministry plans to release a large chunk of radio waves to regulator Ofcom for commercial use, in a move aimed at helping meet the country's growing demand for mobile data.
Radio airwaves, known as the real estate of the mobile industry, have been the subject of hotly fought auctions between mobile operators such as Vodafone and EE who are racing to roll out superfast 4G services.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Friday it was preparing to release around 200 Megahertz (MHz) of radio airwaves to Ofcom, which plans to put the spectrum on the market in 2015/16.
It said the airwaves being released were all below 15 GHz, which is regarded as the most useful and valuable part of the radio spectrum because of its wide range of applications.
"Demand for additional spectrum is currently high, fuelled by the needs of consumers to access video and data-hungry applications on their smartphones and tablets," the MoD said in a statement.
"The spectrum being released can help meet this demand by supporting the expansion of fourth-generation mobile services to more people in cities, towns and villages across the UK."
The move is part of a government commitment to release at least 500 MHz of airwaves below 5 GHz by 2020 for new mobile commercial users.
The MoD spectrum to be released will have no impact on the national security or operational effectiveness of the armed forces, Minister for Defence Equipment, Philip Dunne, said.
In February, Ofcom raised 2.3 billion pounds from an auction of 250 MHz worth of 4G airwaves. The MoD said it was not issuing a figure for how much the next release is expected to raise.
($1 = 0.6319 British pounds)
(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)