UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom has today (9 July 2013) decided to allow mobile phone operators to use their existing 2G and 3G radio spectrum for superfast 4G mobile broadband in the future.
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. The decision also meets Ofcom’s objective to liberalise mobile spectrum for use with all currently-available technologies.
Today’s statement ‘liberalises’ all mobile licences in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands to permit the deployment of LTE and WiMAX (4G) services, where such licences have not already been liberalised. It also permits an increase of 3dB in the maximum permitted base station transmit power in the 900MHz frequency band for 3G and 4G technology.
Ofcom’s Statement on the Requests for Variation of 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz Mobile Licences also says: ‘At the same time we will update a number of terms and conditions in these licences in order to align them more closely with the equivalent terms and conditions in the recently awarded 800MHz and 2.6GHz licences.’
It goes on to state: ‘This decision delivers a long standing objective to liberalise all mobile licences so as to remove the regulatory barriers to deployment of the latest available mobile technology. Even though operators may not seek to deploy 4G services in the newly liberalised bands in the immediate future, the interests of consumers will be served by the fact that these bands have been liberalised now, ahead of a market led transition to their use for 4G technology in future. As a result, operators can plan and implement a transition to 4G technology in these bands without having to engage in a further regulatory process.’
EE (the T-Mobile UK and Orange UK joint venture) is the only UK operator currently offering 4G services after Ofcom granted it permission to refarm some of its 1800MHz spectrum holdings for 4G last year. At the time, EE had to submit an application to Ofcom for permission to do so. This will no longer be the case.
Vodafone UK, Telefonica O2 and Three UK are all expected to launch 4G services this summer following the auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum at the beginning of this year.