Ofcom approves 2G and 3G spectrum refarming

The UK’s mobile operators have been granted permission to redeploy their existing 2G and 3G radio spectrum for 4G services.

UK regulator Ofcom came under fire last year for its decision to allow Everything Everywhere to launch LTE services at 1800MHz, ahead of the LTE spectrum auction process earlier this year.

But in September 2012 in the wake of the complaints, Ofcom told that there was nothing stopping EE’s rivals, such as Vodafone and O2, from putting in an application to alter their 900MHz spectrum licence for LTE usage. The regulator has now gone a step further and stated that they will no longer need to apply to use their mobile licences in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands to deploy LTE and Wimax services.

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“The decision allows mobile operators to increase mobile broadband speeds in future by re-using their 2G and 3G spectrum for 4G, and to plan and implement moves to 4G technology in these bands without having to submit future regulatory applications,” Ofcom said in a statement.

“The decision also meets Ofcom’s objective to liberalise mobile spectrum for use with all currently-available technologies.”

When Everything Everywhere formally become EE, CEO Olaf Swantee countered claims that the 900MHz LTE ecosystem was not as strong by identifying that three of the five LTE devices to launch on EE’s network are also available with LTE900 connectivity.

However, Bengt Nordström, co-founder and CEO of consultancy firm Northstream, said at the time that while Vodafone and O2 should be given the option to refarm their 900MHz spectrum for 4G, freeing enough of it up to launch LTE would be a challenge.  This is because operators in the UK are still selling GSM phones and a large chunk of the user base is reliant on GSM900 spectrum.

He added that launching LTE only really makes sense if operators can allocate at least 10MHz to 20MHz, which would be tough for them to do.


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