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Ofcom Grant EE’s Request for 4G LTE in its 2100MHz Licence to Help ESN

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 (12:26 pm) - Score 1,960

The telecoms regulator has today granted a request by mobile operator EE (BT) for two new licence variations, which would for example enable them to use 4G (LTE) in the unpaired frequencies of 1899.9 – 1909.9MHz (Spectrum Access 2100MHz licence) and support the new Emergency Services Network.

The two changes (listed below) are part of the Home Office’s (Government) decision in 2015 to appoint EE as the main provider for a new £1.2bn Emergency Services Network (ESN), which was previously run by Airwave at a cost of around £3bn and using TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) technology.

The TETRA network is very slow (dialup style data rates) and expensive, but it also delivers some exceptionally wide coverage (97% of the UK’s landmass) and matching that with 4G is going to require a lot of work (here) and some regulatory tweaks.

EE’s Requested Spectrum Access Licence Changes

* A variation of its Spectrum Access 2100 Hz licence to permit the use of LTE technology in the unpaired frequencies 1899.9 to 1909.9MHz; and

* A variation of its Spectrum Access 800MHz / 2.6GHz and 1800MHz licences to permit the use of mobile transmit frequencies to connect additional temporary base stations to its network at powers up to 31 dBm e.i.r.p in the 800MHz and 1800MHz bands, for use as gateways for the new emergency services network.

In its preliminary decision last year Ofcom found that “granting the requests is an efficient use of the spectrum and would benefit citizens and consumers” and, following a final consultation, these changes have today been given full approval (here). Most of this reflects changes that will only be used by the ESN side of EE’s network (i.e. consumers will use different services).

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Simon says:

    EE running the Emergency Services Network leaves me full of fear. Whilst they’ve got a large 4G coverage compared with competitors, and claim to cover more than the others, the network on their current systems simply isn’t reliable enough.

    Their coverage map claims 4G where it simply isn’t, and 3G as “good” when you’re lucky to get 1 bar when outdoors and usually dropping down to no service at all indoors for hours on end. This won’t be of any use at all to the emergency services if the system is the same – albeit on different/dedicated frequencies. They should never have bid to offer the service which they couldn’t (as this change proves) provide.

    1. TWKND says:

      I don’t see why they can’t just have an agreement which allows them to use all 4 networks and then use the existing, potentially upgraded TETRA network in deadzones.

    2. dave says:

      EE’s upcoming 800mhz network should result in fantastic coverage as the signal travels further than the 2g/3g 900mhz network that most phone calls use.

    3. 125uS says:

      Lower frequencies penetrate better, so it may be that this adjustment will allow for improved coverage. I’d imagine the devices used will have transmit levels higher than consumer phones as well. When you can’t get a signal on your mobile the problem is often not that there’s no received signal from a mast where you are, it’s that your phone can’t reach the mast in the other direction to establish two-way communication.

      As to bidding for the service – any bid of this size will involve companies bidding based on capability they propose to create, not capability they currently have. This request appears to be part of that process. The people who reviewed and accepted the bid clearly think they can do it or they wouldn’t have won the business.

  2. Matthew Williams says:

    Actually EE were the last person bidding on ESN Contract so not like they had much other choice

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