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Ofcom opens up 2G spectrum for 3G services

White space networks are key to the IoT

UK communications regulator Ofcom on Thursday officially opened the doors for mobile operators to use their 2G spectrum for 3G services. Measures to allow refarming of 2G spectrum will see the UK follow other European countries including Finland, France and Portugal in the deployment of UMTS in the spectrum bands formerly reserved for GSM.

From today the airwaves used by mobile operators for 2G services – those in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands – typically used for voice and text, will now be available to provide 3G services, such as mobile internet.

The move, which brings the UK in line with updated European legislation, removes restrictions on the licenses issued in the 1990s that only allow the spectrum to be used for 2G services. Now Ofcom promises that UMTS900 deployments will allow consumers to benefit from greater network capacity, improved quality of coverage and better in-building coverage, as well as more coverage in rural areas.

Ofcom does not believe the measure will distort competition, but the move is likely to rekindle heated debate among the operator community. Telefonicá O2 UK and Vodafone are the only operators with 900MHz spectrum, while Orange/T-Mobile and 3 UK were only allocated 1800MHz spectrum and have raised objection over their lack of resource. Still, these carriers have another spectrum auction to look forward to later this year. At the end of 2010, Ofcom set out the timeline for the award of 800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum in the UK, which has been set aside for 4G technologies, most likely LTE.

The award of spectrum in these bands is set to take place by 4Q11 via an auction process. The actual awards of licenses in these bands will come in 2Q12. A consultation document which will detail the auction process is expected to be finalised by end February 2011.


One comment

  1. MarkP 06/01/2011 @ 6:52 pm

    Are you sure about your spectrum auction dates? A speach by head of Ofcom in November mentioned Q1 2012 for the actual auction with networks launches delayed until 2014

    It would be interesting if you could report on why the UK is actually going to be so late to the LTE party. In the US, both Verizon and AT&T are aggressivley rolling out LTE this year. UK used to be a leader in mobile but now it’s slipping further behind. Was it Ofcom mismanagement? They certainly screwed up with original refarming consultation – do you remember that?

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