With the rollout of a 4G network in the UK still a number of years away, the focus
now is on the distribution of the allocated spectrum which the government is
due to auction off early next year.
The auction of the 3G spectrum garnered £22.5 billion for
the Treasury in 2000 but it is expected that the 4G auction won’t come near
that figure, despite it being the biggest ever seen in the UK – comparable to
three quarters of the current mobile spectrum.
As well as the delay in the auction taking place, networks face a number of other issues
which need to be resolved before they can roll out the service to consumers.
The main problem for networks is of course cost, and new research has found
that re-farming current 2G and 3G spectrum could lead to a huge saving.
Aircom International has carried out research into the issue
and has found that re-farming could lead to huge savings for operators, which
could then be passed on to consumers.
After calculating prices paid for new LTE spectrum in North
America and Europe, Aircom International believes that existing 2G and 3G
spectrum (5MHz) could be re-allocated to LTE deployment for less than 0.5 per
cent of the cost of buying new spectrum at auction.
Speaking to TrustedReviews, Fabricio Martinez, Services Director
at Aircom International, said that other countries such as Spain are going down this route but plans so far
in the UK
are in the very early stages with a number of operators speaking to Ofcom about
the possibility. He believes this process would expedite the 4G deployment/
Aircom International has calculated that there is sufficient
re-farmed spectrum available to sustain quality LTE service delivery for a
period of up to three years. It says
that as well as re-farming the current spectrum, operators would still need to
purchase some of the 4G spectrum when it goes up for auction next year.
When we asked Martinez whether
the re-farming process would affect current 2G and 3G users, Martinez said that in order to minimise the
disruption, the re-farming process would need to be planned meticulously.
“Effective spectrum re-farming techniques remove existing
spectrum allocated to 2G and 3G service delivery,” he said. “Operators must
plan spectrum re-farming very carefully to ensure minimal service degradation.
Careful planning will enable operators to build additional capacity in a more
measured way, ensuring spectrum efficiency is maximised for new and existing
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Speaking about the benefits of an LTE network in the UK, Martinez
said that the main benefit would not be speed but a reduction in the latency on
the network by up to 50 per cent.
Martinez said that he felt a 4G
LTE network would not be operating in the UK until 2013 at the earliest and with the delay in the auction until next year is probably an optimistic estimate at this stage.
Source: Aircom International