Spectrum Re-farming Could Advance 4G Roll Out

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.

4g specturm re-farming

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.

4g specturm re-farming

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


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