Spectrum Release Programme

Safely reducing industry’s reliance on bandwidth reserved for air traffic control radar


The UK Government plans to release at least 500 MHz of public sector spectrum below 5 GHz before 2020 to meet the demand from commercial services, such as mobile communications including broadband. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport published a consultation document "Enabling UK Growth – releasing public spectrum" in which it laid down the strategy for spectrum release. The document identified the 2.7-2.9 GHz and 2.9-3.1 GHz frequency sub-bands as priorities for further investigation, which are currently occupied by Primary Surveillance Radar used to support aviation, maritime, and military security tasks.

In 2012, the CAA provided the Department for Transport with an initial feasibility assessment of potential options for releasing spectrum in the 2.7-2.9 GHz band (S band). On the basis of this assessment, the DfT supported by CAA recommendations concluded that there was sufficient potential and benefits to proceed with a programme of research for spectrum release S band. However, it was recognised that before any spectrum release could be formally supported and delivered, there would need to be extensive development trials work carried out. This is the basis for the current feasibility phase.

The CAA's work on Spectrum Release was announced in the following Press Release.

Programme context

The CAA is now conducting research in support of the Government’s Spectrum Release Programme to investigate possible reductions in spectrum occupancy by PSR.  As part of this activity, the CAA is evaluating viability of frequency re-planning for current PSR assets, and the viability of emerging technologies that enable CAA and aviation stakeholders to achieve the need for non-cooperative surveillance while using radio spectrum more efficiently.

Potential wider benefits of emerging surveillance technologies

The CAA's aim within the programme is to assess the feasibility of replacing S-Band air traffic control radars with new independent non-cooperative surveillance systems that provide benefits such as:

  • Improved coverage and detection capability
  • Reduced operating costs
  • A more cost-effective and strategic wind turbine mitigation solution
  • Higher surveillance data update rates
  • Improved redundancy and scalability
  • Long-term spectrum-efficiency

Find out more about our work on Spectrum Release in our Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Us

Email:   spectrum.release@caa.co.uk