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UPD Ofcom Back T-Mobile and Orange Rollout of 4G Mobile Broadband in 2012

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 (1:05 pm) - Score 437

The communications regulator, Ofcom, has today “provisionally” proposed to allow mobile operators T-Mobile and Orange UK (Everything Everywhere) to deploy a new generation of 4G (Long Term Evolution / LTE or WiMAX) superfast Mobile Broadband services over their existing 1800MHz radio spectrum. The group first put in a request to re-purpose the spectrum for 4G use during January 2012 (here).

Ofcom has already allowed both 900MHz and 1800MHz bands, which until last year were only viable for basic 2G voice and slow data services, to be used for existing 3G services (January 2011 Decision) and O2 UK has already taken advantage of that. Since then the European Commission (EC) has required, under decision 2009/766/EC, that Ofcom also consider any applications for “liberalised” 4G use of the same spectrum.

Ofcoms Statement on 1800MHz Spectrum Licence Variation

If we were to vary EE’s licence now, it would be likely to be the only entity capable of providing LTE/WiMAX services on a national basis for a period of time. In accordance with the relevant legal framework, we have therefore considered whether there is a risk of distortion to competition arising from authorising EE’s 1800 MHz licences for LTE and WiMAX technologies.

[It is] our view is that there is no material risk of a distortion of competition if EE is permitted now to use the 1800MHz band to deploy LTE and/or WiMAX technologies, we propose to vary EE’s 1800 MHz licences as soon as practicable, subject to this consultation.”

Today’s outcome, given Europe’s past decision, will not come as much of a surprise and indeed its practical impact is likely to be somewhat mixed. Everything Everywhere is about to begin a new trial of 4G (LTE) technology over 1800MHz in Bristol (from April 2012) and so it’s likely to be the latter half of 2012 before they could feasibly be “ready to roll out” one of the country’s first consumer 4G services.

On top of that the 1800MHz band has always been better suited to urban and suburban environments (works well in buildings) and there’s still a distinct lack of 4G kit available in the market, which could hinder its uptake. In the meantime Ofcom’s proposal is still subject to a short consultation (open for responses until 17th April 2012), which suggests that they’re not expecting a drawn-out debate and thus the proposal are likely to stand.

Ofcom’s 1800MHz for 4G Consultation
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/variation-1800mhz-lte-wimax/..

UPDATE 15th March 2012

Here’s a new comment from Piers Daniell, the Managing Director of business ISP Fluidata.

Piers Daniell, MD of Fluidata, said:

It is interesting point that EE can now convert its existing spectrum to 4G. My view is that this should be allowed, even if takes longer for the competition to get access. The fact that EE has had this spectrum for so long means they should be able to deliver any service they wish over it. In the same way that, in the broadband world, if an ISP can deliver a higher speed over copper or fibre they do so, even if their competitors can’t. We were offering Annex-M (ie 2.6 Mb/s upload) since 2005 even though it took the majority if the competition 3-years to catch up.

Surely this means healthy competition. Also O2 were quick to forget their protected position in being the only operator to sell the iPhone when it first launched. Obviously that gave them a lead but, ironically, it meant more network traffic over their network which they couldn’t support. This meant they didn’t become dramatically larger or more successful than their competitors.”

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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.
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