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Ofcom Delays 1800MHz for 4G Ruling as Three UK Threatens Legal Action

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 (7:58 am) - Score 798
mobile broadband uk

Ofcom has delayed its proposal to allow T-Mobile and Orange UK (Everything Everywhere) to launch the country’s first 4G superfast Mobile Broadband service over their existing 1800MHz (3G) spectrum band. Separately Three UK, in an effort to ensure that they get a fair slice of the much more valuable 800MHz spectrum (covers a wider area for less money), are now mulling legal action.

The telecoms regulator confirmed yesterday afternoon that pressure from various mobile operators had caused them to extend their 1800MHz proposal consultation to 8th May 2012; it had originally been due to finish on 17th April 2012. The unsurprising move follows a week of harsh criticism from O2 and Vodafone (here and here), both of which accused Ofcom of unfairly allowing EE to get a head start because 1800MHz would allow them to launch 4G in 2012 instead of late 2013 / early 2014 as planned for everybody else via the Q4-2012 auction of 800MHz and 2.6GHz.

Ofcoms Statement

Ofcom today extended the period for responding to Ofcom’s “Notice of proposed variation of Everything Everywhere’s 1800MHz spectrum licences to allow use of LTE and WiMAX technologies” from 17 April 2012 until 8 May 2012. We have decided to extend this period following requests from stakeholders for more time to respond.

Meanwhile Three UK, which last year issued repeated warnings about how some of its rivals might tie the 4G auction process up in litigation and thus secure themselves a competitive advantage, now appears to be mulling something similar.

O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere are all incentivised differently to defer that auction for as long as possible,” said David Dyson, Three UK’s CEO, last year. The O2 reference relates to how Ofcom has already allowed them to repurpose their valuable 900MHz spectrum for use by 3G services and could do the same for 4G in the future.

A Three UK Spokesperson said (The Guardian):

You can expect [us] to address competition and the principles set out by Ofcom in a four-player market for the benefit of consumers.”

Three UK had originally warned that it was desperate for new spectrum as otherwise it would have run out of existing capacity by the end of 2012, which always seemed a little unlikely. However the operator hints that the rollout of HSPA+ (Evolved HSPA) technology, which boosts their maximum Mobile Broadband download speeds from 21Mbps (current) to 42Mbps, has given it enough time to use the courts.

Ofcom’s auction process had originally intended to balance the solution by ensuring that Three UK, as the markets smallest operator, got a slice of the 800MHz band in its auction. However rivals, especially Vodafone, are against this and have told Ofcom not to try and “over-engineer the release of new spectrum“.

Ofcom has already been forced to delay the auction process to Q4 2012 and, much to the unavoidable dismay of the government which wants everybody to dance hand-in-hand over the rainbow together, there’s now a growing potential for more delays in the future.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar PiRat

    The only decent service is that provided by Three, I hope they get a decent slice of the 800Mhz spectrum.

    @Ispreview

    It isn’t 4G, it’s 3.9G!

  2. The 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands are described by Ofcom as 4G because they are intend to support up to the LTE Advanced and WiMAX2 specification.

  3. Avatar Max

    These delays are getting annoying. Everything in this country is always delayed by way to much red tape.

    On another note, Three provide by far the best 3G service in my area. More people need to try them out, they are certainly better than certain other carriers I could think of.

  4. Avatar Steve

    I want 4G as much as everyone else, but isn’t this just another example of the powerful phone companies muscling in on every bit of spectrum they can get their hands on and elbowing out the likes of broadcasters who need spectrum to gather the very content that we all want to stream on our phones?!

  5. Avatar Neil McRae

    Three is wise to take this action in my personal view. 1800MHz is fast becoming an LTE sweet spot. Lower cost to deploy and reasonably good penetration and coverage and most importantly can carry a decent amount of bandwidth. 800Mhz is only good for coverage and won’t give them what they need for mobile broadband or high bandwidth devices such as tablets.

    Neil.

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