Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ofcom Proposes Auction of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz Spectrum this Year

Ofcom set out a number of new proposals for making 4G mobile spectrum available in the UK. Plans call for the auction of ‘digital dividend’ spectrum in the 800MHz band along with higher frequency airwaves in the 2.6GHz band at the end of 2012.

Among the proposals, Ofcom is considering revising or dropping a special condition that is attached to one of the 800MHz licences, obliging the holder to roll out a 4G network to 95% of the UK population. Given the Government's plans to invest £150m to boost mobile coverage in those areas with no coverage, Ofcom now believes that the special condition can be strengthened in one of two ways. The first option is to increase the obligation to 98% of the UK by population. However, the second and potentially more effective option, is to require that one 800MHz operator provides 4G coverage that not only matches existing 2G coverage but also extends into mobile ‘not spot’ areas of the UK where the £150m will provide infrastructure capable of supporting 4G coverage.

In another proposal, Ofcom is considering ways to help ensure that there are at least four national wholesalers of mobile services.

Ofcom is also proposing to reserve some spectrum in the 2.6GHz band to be shared by a group of companies that might be considered a new entrant - for instance, mobile networks for student campuses, hospitals or commercial offices, which operate on short-range frequencies serving a small area.

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