Ofcom Liberalises 2G and 3G Spectrum For 4G Use

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 removes the regulatory barriers for the re-farming of 900 MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz spectrum

Mobile operators will be free to use their existing 2G and 3G spectrum for 4G, and other mobile technologies, after Ofcom liberalised the bandwidth for other uses.

EE was granted permission to roll out 4G services using its existing 1800MHz bandwidth last year and launched LTE services in October 2012, becoming the first and so far only UK 4G operator.

Ofcom announced plans to let EE’s competitors do the same in February as part of a consultation supported by Vodafone and Three, and today’s decision has paved the way for LTE to be deployed on these bands without the need for further regulatory approval.

Ofcom spectrum liberalisation

4G, Mobile, Smartphone © Digital Storm Shutterstock 2012“Ofcom has today decided to allow mobile phone operators to use their existing 2G and 3G radio spectrum for superfast 4G mobile broadband in the future,” the regulator said in a statement.

“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.”

EE’s rivals said the decision to liberalise the spectrum would have no impact on their plans for 4G, indicating they were looking to build their LTE networks around the bandwidth acquired in the Ofcom 4G spectrum earlier this year.

“It has no bearing on our 4G launch. We always wanted to run 4G on new 800MHz spectrum as it provides the level of indoor coverage our customers expect from us,” the operator told TechWeekEurope.

“That’s why we spent £802m on the widest portfolio of spectrum in the recent 4G auction. As yet, there is very little kit available to run 4G on our existing 900MHz or 2100MHz spectrum and we only have a very small part of the 1800MHz spectrum.”

“Although these changes won’t have an impact on our 4G launch this summer, we welcome the decision from Ofcom and the flexibility that these changes will allow in the future,” added O2.

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