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Ofcom Preparing 4G Consultation

David Gilbert by

Ofcom Preparing 4G Consultation

While the UK may have been at the forefront of 3G rollout back at the turn of the millennium, it has been lagging behind hugely in relation to 4G but Ofcom has now begun a consultation process that hopefully will move it forward.

The regulatory body has begun a consultation process, which will try to establish the best way to sell off the rights to the next generation mobile network. The auction, which won’t begin until early 2012 it is believed, will be the largest ever seen in the UK and will be comparable to three quarters of the current mobile spectrum. While Vodafone and O2 have previously been allowed to use some of the old 2G network to test the LTE system, smaller operator, Three, has complained to Ofcom that this will give the larger networks a greater advantage since it doesn’t possess any of the old 2G network.

In a bid to appease the smaller networks, Ofcom has said it will impose a cap on the amount of bandwidth any one company can win at auction. The auction will sell off the parts of the wireless spectrum being freed up by the analogue television switchover. The 800MHz and 2.6GHz bandwidths will be sold off and all companies will be eager to access the lower frequency due to its better connection over long distances such as in rural areas. There will also be a cap on the amount of low-frequency bandwidth any one company can win.

"Our role as the independent regulator is to award this spectrum in a way that secures the best use of the spectrum for the benefit of citizens and consumers in the UK," the Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, said. "That is why we are proposing to design the auction in a way that not only encourages investment but also promotes competition and delivers wide coverage of services."

The 2000 auction of the 3G spectrum garnered £22.5 billion for the Treasury however it is expected that nothing like this windfall will result this time. Whatever the amount of money bid, consumers will be more interested that the process has begun and that the possibility of getting 4G network in the UK is a step closer.

Source: BBC and Ofcom

Go to comments


March 22, 2011, 5:26 pm

Yes the auction was a big success for the Treasury last time out but wouldn't it have been better to let the Telcos keep the money and spend it on the actual 3G networks. The rollout of 3G was pitifully slow and even to this day coverage is patchy.

Yes it would mean less money for Georgie in these hard times but long term it would be a massive win for the consumer.

Also, why do we need 5 networks? What's stopping us having a national grid type single network with less wasteful duplication and more widespread coverage?


March 22, 2011, 7:41 pm

@ rav

Bit contradictory those suggestions. If you want to fund a big government spending project like a unified, open, nationwide 4G network, that takes tax money. But you pre-empt that by calling to scrap the auction, giving the spectrum away for free.

Now you could take your suggestion by giving the carriers nothing to bid for and simply mandating an equal split between them, but then each company will be roughly on the same footing with the level of disposable income they currently have, and not much progress has been gained at all - they'll just all agree to rollout the same sized network at the same rate, maintaining a status quo based on the profits they make on the service they already offer - slower overall progress. I'm generally not a 'Let the market forces be' advocate, but this just seems a way of the government trying to strike a balance between full privatisation and regulation, a kind of 4G tax but one that forces them to compete via an auction over different pieces of the pie.

Plus the recession surely dictates that if the state has a commodity corporations want, we might as well make money off it. Besides, it's not like these guys pay any real taxes anyway. (Remember those Vodafone stories?) In the end, someone has to foot the upfront bill for this new infrastructure. In a better economic climate, I could see a case for having another tax and doing it ourselves, but to put that on top of the rocketing VAT and inflation, right now I'd rather it was them.


March 22, 2011, 9:04 pm

rav is spot on.

The treasury got £22.5bn, which was far more than any reasonable business model from the telcos could accommodate, so they laid off vast swathes of their workforce (which went a long way to undoing the economic benefit of the windfall) and dragged their feet on the network rollout.

When something similar happened with the US 3G spectrum auction they realized it was an own goal and re-ran it.

@GoldenGuy â€" *Are* we expecting the government to fund the 4G network? They didn’t do anything to fund or assist with the 3G rollout â€" they took the money and left the telcos to fumble it.


March 23, 2011, 6:38 pm

so all of the world is going to be using LTE but most of it is going to be using different frequancies, I'm hoping that the mobiles themselves can support all the frequancies (esp here in the UK) the last thing I would want to see is different networks having to have specific handsets that won't work on other networks.

swedens lte is 2600MHz
verizons in the US is 700MHz
AT&Ts in the US is going to be 1700MHz
and ours is going to be 2600MHz and 800MHz (FYI for the area one 800MHz tower covers it would take 4 2600MHz towers, also 800MHz will be very good for going through and into buildings 2600MHz will not, (exactly the same way you can always get a 2G signal indoors but sometimes not a 3G signal because 3G is 2100MHz)

What I cant understand is why all the networks cant just band together and create one network and cover 100% of the land of the UK then just but extra towers in high population areas. (exactly what rav said, it would cut out the duplication of towers)

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