Free Newsletter

Ofcom removes spectrum guarantees for two UK operators

Latest proposals for 4G auction no longer reserve 800MHz frequencies for 3UK and EE, but retain caps and boost coverage mandate

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 13 January, 2012

READ MORE: Spectrum | UK | Infrastructure | Regulator | LTE

UK regulator Ofcom has outlined yet another set of proposals for its much-delayed spectrum auction, removing rules to reserve sub-1GHz frequencies for Everything Everywhere and 3UK, and extending coverage targets.

The auction of licences in 2.6GHz and 800MHz bands is lagging behind similar sales in other major European economies, partly because of the ongoing row over how sub-1GHz spectrum, valuable for affordable rural coverage, is divided up. Vodafone and O2 have their GSM networks in the 900MHz band, and could refarm that, while EE and 3UK currently have no low frequency spectrum.


This unusual situation led Ofcom to favor reserving some 800MHz capacity for EE and 3UK, to redress the sub-1GHz balance, but Vodafone and O2 have argued that this amounted to state interference, and claimed that their 900MHz holdings were less valuable than the 800MHz frequencies, because they have less global scale. In the face of a potential new round of legal challenges, which could have delayed the late 2012 timeline for the auction, Ofcom appears to have pulled back from its previous stance.

The agency now says it will remove guarantees that 3UK and EE would be reserved a certain amount of spectrum in the 800MHz band. Vodafone welcomed the move, saying in a statement that it brings the UK "closer to a fair and open auction that will benefit the wider economy, increase competition and ultimately lead to the creation of innovative and exciting new services for consumers."

However, operators will still face a system of spectrum caps and floors as Ofcom seeks to keep all four viable (and potentially enable a new entrant bid). The regulator said consumers will receive better choice and pricing of services if there are "at least four national wholesalers of mobile services", which means that operators need the "right quality and mix of spectrum" to keep all four viable. 3UK has argued that, unless its larger rivals are capped, it may be squeezed out of the LTE game and become uncompetitive. Ofcom retains options for reserving "varying amounts of spectrum" to support four carriers, including caps on total holdings as well as, specifically, on sub-1GHz frequencies. Ofcom also plans to earmark some spectrum in the 2.6GHz band "to be shared by a group of companies to deliver innovative new mobile services for consumers", which might include local resources for schools, hospitals or innovation centers.

The regulator has also proposed measures to extend rural broadband availability. This may be done by increasing the coverage mandate attached to one 800MHz national licence from 95% to 98% of the population; or mandating coverage of identified 'not spot' areas, supported by a previously announced government fund of £150m to enhance signal quality in underserved regions. Many believe the latter approach would be more effective, ensuring that the operator's 2% leeway did not fall in the most broadband-deprived communities.

Pages: 1 | 2

Related Stories

Share

  • email story Email
  • print story Print
  • digit digit
  • facebook facebook
  • Twitter Twitter
  • Linked-in Linked-In
  • Comments (0)

COMMENTS

Add Comment
No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
MARKET PLACE

    BYOD: Market Analysis and Forecasts

    An in-depth insight into the rise of BYOD policies within the enterprise and analysis of the impact the trend will have on IT departments,...

    Voice Command, Control and Search on Mobile Phones: Market Analysis & Forecasts

    This report provides a comprehensive insight into the growing importance of voice command, control and search on handsets, analysing...

    Data Centre Network Equipment: Market Analysis and Forecasts

    This report provides a global assessment of the data centre network equipment market. Besides assessing the key market trends, sub-markets...

    HetNet Market Summary & Forecasts: Macro Cells, Small Cells & Wi-Fi Offload

    Carriers are struggling to cope with the explosion of data traffic on their networks, and the additional deployment of LTE and legacy...

    Over-the-Top Communications: Threats & Opportunities for Mobile Operators

    This report examines the implications of widespread adoption of mobile over-the-top IP communications for mobile operators, handset...

    Portable Gaming Consoles: Market Analysis and Forecasts

    This report provides a global assessment of the PGC market. In addition to assessing the key market drivers, market barriers, vendor...
WHITE PAPERS

    Satellite Phones: Will Dual Mode Help the Phoenix Rise from the Ashes?

    Satellite phones have followed an arduous path since their much-hyped launch more than a decade ago. The hype was followed by an e...

    Mobile Widget Platform Market Analysis: Understanding the Business Case and ROI

    This white paper presents an analysis of the mobile widget platform market, as well as metrics supporting a mobile carrier?s busin...

POST COMMENT

You must be a registered user to post a comment. or
Username *
Email *
Comment *