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Ofcom Reveals Revised Proposals for 4G Auction

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Ofcom proposes increasing coverage to 98 percent and won’t reserve spectrum for Everything Everywhere

Ofcom has made a number of new proposals for the perpetually delayed auction of 4G spectrum in the UK ahead of a second consultation into the process.

The regulatory authority’s proposals mean that Everything Everywhere will not be reserved spectrum as while it has also suggested that coverage be extended to at least 98 percent of the British population.

Promoting competition

It had been previously indicated that Everything Everywhere, the UK’s largest mobile network by subscribers, would be reserved spectrum as part of plans to promote competition, but this will no longer be the case.

Three will probably be the only network to have spectrum reserved in order to ensure that there are four operators in the UK. Three had previously said that it could go out of business if it could not secure enough spectrum.

In addition, Ofcom is also proposing that some of the 2.6GHz band be shared between companies prepared to experiment with new services, such as those for local mobile networks for student campuses, hospitals or commercial offices which operate on short-range frequencies.

Expanded coverage

Following the first consultation, Ofcom proposed that one of the 800MHz licenses should have a condition attached which obliged the licensee to roll out a 4G network to 95 percent of the population, but it is now suggesting that this be increased to 98 percent.

However, it has said that a more efficient option could be to require one 800MHz operator to provide 4G coverage which not only matches its existing 2G coverage, but also extends into mobile ‘not spots’ which have been the target of a government investment of £150 million to boost mobile coverage.

Ofcom says that this would make it more likely that services would be located in places where they would be most valued, rather than locations which are the easiest for licensees to meet their obligation.

New generation of mobile communication

“The proposals published today will influence the provision of services to consumers for the next decade and beyond,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. “As the UK enters a new generation of mobile communications, Ofcom’s objective is to promote effective competition and to stimulate both investment and innovation.”

“In addition we are proposing a significant enhancement of mobile broadband, extending 4G coverage beyond levels of existing 2G coverage – helping to serve many areas of the UK that have traditionally been underserved by network coverage,” he added.

Ofcom announced that it was to launch a second consultation into the 4G auction in October, despite claiming it wouldn’t delay the process any further, causing the sale to be postponed until late 2012 at the earliest.

The auction has been held up by technical issues and pressure from the networks, leading Ofcom to warn that 4G networks may not be available in the UK for another four years.