Spectrum refarming allowd for UK mobile operators

U.K. mobile operators can make use of their second-generation spectrum to provide 3G services, effective immediately, according to the latest pronouncement from regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom allows telcos to make use of second-generation spectrum for 3G services.

The refarming issue has caused controversy in the industry. While operators have for some time lobbied to be able to reuse their 2G spectrum, some have questioned the fairness of such a move, since operators 2G spectrum allowances vary. The issue centres on the sought-after 900-MHz band, which is better for both in-building & rural coverage due to its superior radio wave propagation loss compared to 1800 MHz.

So-called spectrum refarming will provide the operators with greater capacity for bandwidth-hungry services, as well as facilitating improved in-building 3G services & rural coverage.

In the U.K., only Vodafone & O2 have 900-MHz spectrum; Orange & T-Mobile – now brought together to form Everything all over the place – have 2G spectrum in the 1800-MHz band only. All three U.K. players have 2100-MHz, or 3G, spectrum. (See table)

Everything Everywhere last year threatened legal action against the government over designs to permit refarming, but dropped the threat in November. However, the U.K. market leader by subscribers is still urging authorities to cap the amount of sub-1 GHz spectrum a single operator is permitted to hold. The U.K. is due to auction off spectrum in the 800-MHz band later this year.

On Thursday Ofcom pointed out that the move to liberalise 2G spectrum for use by 3G services stems from a European Union directive issued in late December. The regulator also highlighted earlier research that it said showed refarming is “unlikely to lead to a material distortion of competition”.

a lot of other markets across Europe have already permitted refarming, with markets such as Finland, Sweden & France leading the way with UMTS 900 deployments.

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