Communications regulator Ofcom has begun a consultation on the future use of spectrum bands 600Mhz and 700Mhz, and suggests that the UK reserves them for mobile broadband needs.

These lower bands are in high demand due to being able to provide better quality of service in difficult to reach indoor and outdoor locations, and have been made available following the switch over from analogue TV.

Although the spectrum could be used for a wide range of services, including digital terrestrial television (DTT), emergency services and applications using white space devices, Ofcom indicates that its likely to be reserved for mobile broadband due to the expectation that there is going to be a rapid growth in demand for capacity.

It estimates that under a mid-level growth scenario, mobile data capacity demand will experience an 80 fold increase between 2012 and 2030.

The consultation also highlights that it is unlikely that the spectrum will be made available until at least 2018, as it can take a number of years for it to be reapplied to new services.

One of the main reasons for this is that if 700Mhz, which is currently used to deliver DTT, but could be freed up in the future thanks to new spectrum efficiency technology, was to be used for mobile broadband in the UK it would require a new international frequency co-ordination agreement.

700MHz is currently used for LTE (4G) services in the US, and is anticipated to be used in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but the position of some European countries is still unclear. This means that an agreement in Europe is unlikely to be achieved until at least 2018.

"Changing the use of spectrum from one service to another can take several years and in some cases more than a decade, especially where new international agreements are required and where there are existing users of the spectrum whose requirements need to be taken into account," reads the consultation document.

"In contrast, the pace of innovation and change in the communications sector is accelerating. In particular, there is an unprecedented growth in the demand for mobile broadband capacity," it continues.

"The tension raises the need for a long-term strategic approach."

All interested stakeholders have until the 7 June 2012 to respond to the consultation.