Ofcom has given UK public bodies the go-ahead to get involved in the auction scramble for space on the radio spectrum for digital services.

The so-called L-Band auction is set to take place in 2009, and now British government organisations, including the Ministry of Defense (MoD), will be able to share or trade some of the most valuable radio spectrum in the country.

Ofcom said that the prime spectrum held by the public sector has been estimated to be worth between £3 billion and £20 billion, repeating findings made by the Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings, led by Professor Martin Cave, which published its report in December 2005.

"Public bodies and the MoD in particular hold some of the most valuable and sought-after radio spectrum", said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards in a statement.

"By working with these organisations we are enabling them to trade and release this spectrum, which will create new opportunities for the development of wireless services for the whole country."

The MoD holds around a third of the most sought-after public-sector spectrum, according to Reuters, and has promised to release "a significant proportion" of this.

It is to take part in a consultation starting in May.

The auction plan was revealed last year, and at the time, Ofcom said it was the most important move it had ever made.

Richards said: "This statement is one of the most important Ofcom has ever made ... Radio spectrum is an essential but finite resource. Its use accounts for nearly £1 in every £30 in the UK economy and it delivers a plethora of services to UK citizens and consumers ... this is the most important spectrum to be released in the past 40 years and likely to be the most important spectrum release in the UK in the next 20 years".