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Britain proposes airwaves shake-up to meet broadband demand

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's telecoms regulator is proposing to change the way it will allocate the next batch of airwaves to be made available to mobile operators facing burgeoning demand for mobile data.

Telecoms operators have previously paid billions of pounds to secure long leases on the best chunks of airwaves, known as the real estate of the mobile industry, most recently in the 4G auction.

But Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said the industry would have to become more flexible on the terms of spectrum ownership to solve problems such as interference and the changing dynamics of the industry.

That means operators could own specific parts of spectrum for shorter lengths of time as newer demands emerge, he said.

But the flip side for consumers is that, with spectrum changing hands more often, products such as handsets and tablets would need to be updated and retuned, and could become obsolete faster.

"At every stage, industry and consumers will need to modify their expectations in relation to the spectrum certainties of the past," he said at the Telecoms Regulation Forum on Tuesday.

A consultation on the changes is expected to be launched by Ofcom on Wednesday as part of its strategy to eventually reallocate the 700 MHz spectrum, some of which is used for television broadcasting to mobile services, in about 2020.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Goodman)

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