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Ofcom UK to Let O2 and Vodafone Use Existing Bands for 5G

Friday, May 20th, 2022 (11:23 am) - Score 7,680
concept of wireless radio Internet. 5G mobile technologies.

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, have today proposed to update certain licences held by mobile operators Vodafone and O2 (VMO2) – including for the 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2.6GHz bands. The move is designed to enable the deployment of newer technologies, such as ultrafast 5G broadband services, into the bands.

The aforementioned bands are currently only allowed to harness up to 4G technology (sometimes also WiMAX), while 5G services typically make use of the 700MHz, 3.4GHz and the 3.6-3.8GHz bands. But re-farming existing spectrum to be used alongside newer services, where appropriate, is a fairly common practice as technologies evolve and can help to improve data speeds, as well as network coverage.

NOTE: Some of these bands may also still be used for older 2G and 3G services, but those will be retired over the next few years (2G will be the last to go, as it still has some key uses).

Suffice to say, it was always expected that the older bands would eventually be tweaked to enable support for the latest 5G services. In fact, Ofcom appears to be going a step further by essentially making the bands’ technology neutral, which could aid the future adoption of 6G services too.

What we are proposing – in brief

In response to requests from Vodafone and Telefónica, we are proposing to make changes to some licences they hold. The changes would allow them to deploy new technologies, including 5G, and deliver the next generation of connectivity and services to their users. The changes we propose are as follows:

Updating the technical conditions of licences held by Vodafone in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands:

The proposed variations would amend the licences with updated parameters that reflect the latest technologies. We are also proposing to remove technology restrictions in the licences to make them technology neutral.

Removing a restriction placed on Telefónica’s unpaired spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band:

Telefónica has requested that we remove a restriction on the 5 MHz block within its unpaired spectrum allocation adjacent to Vodafone’s unpaired allocation. Vodafone has contacted us to confirm its agreement with the request. This would allow Telefónica to use an unrestricted 20 MHz of spectrum compared with the 15 MHz currently available. To make this arrangement work, the two licensees need to synchronise transmissions and both of their licences will need to be varied.

Ofcom added that they’re currently also “minded to make similar changes available to the licences of other licensees operating in these bands, upon request“, which is to be expected. None of this means to say that the operators will suddenly switch off 4G services, since those will be the most popular ones for a long time to come, but it does give them more scope to make better use of the existing spectrum as time goes on.

Overall, we believe that consumers are likely to benefit from the proposed licence variations because these changes will enable licensees to provide innovative mobile services and to make a more efficient use of spectrum. Consumers may also benefit from these services providing faster download speeds and improved coverage,” said Ofcom. The consultation is expected to run until 1st July 2022.

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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.
Leave a Comment
20 Responses
  1. sam says:

    Good and so they should as these frequencies penetrate through walls much better. My O2 and Vodafone signals are solid in my house whereas EE/Three are not…

    1. Anuraj says:

      Correct. EE singles not solid. One second it’s showing full bar and next second down to 1 bar and drains the batteries as well.

      Vodafone calls quality very good as they drop to 2g if there is no 4g.

      Voice quality terrible and calls drops more often.

  2. Ben says:

    It seems strange that the licenses *weren’t* technology-neutral in the first place — surely the choice of technology is a business decision for the operator and not something which requires regulation?

    1. Jackster says:

      I think Ofcom were hoping to make some more money or of it selling the spectrum twice to the same buyer…

    2. Mike says:

      How else would the government rinse them every few years?

    3. Jay says:

      It could’ve also been to give a little control over the technologies networks use in order to prevent an anti consumer split, for example with 4G some networks using LTE and others using WiMAX, I don’t think anyone would be happy being forced to buy a new phone just to switch networks

  3. Anuraj says:

    Vodafone already have plan to introduce 5g on 900mhz and they have allocated 10mhz. Hope 900 better than 700mhz.

    Vodafone going to loose 2.6ghz unpaired spectrum ?

  4. ELL says:

    If this means improved 5G coverage then it’s a good thing, I’ve just come back from a training course in Doncaster where officially O2 states I should not get 5G yet I do so if this mean more 5G coverage then I’m all for it.

  5. jason999 says:

    Living in an area with great voice but horrendously slow 4g, I hope they hurry up and do this the same goes for o2 which we also have via Virgin Media

    1. Daniel says:

      Same. O2??? My area has awful o2 and three service. (Below 2mbts)

  6. Michael says:

    Was wondering how long this would take.
    This is good news.

  7. Sam says:

    It’s become a joke how obvious Ofcomcs anti-EE bias is. They need to cease existing asap.

    1. Anuraj says:

      EE have more spectrum than other carriers because of orange and t-mobile merged.

      It’s help them to convert 2600mhz to 5g too.

      EE have more 5g mast and 5g coverage but voice quality is terrible and more calls drops. I live 100meters away from their latest mast. Still making calls very difficult.

      I am leaving them soon because of this reason.

  8. ad47uk says:

    I thought it was by using higher frequencies that made 5G go the speed it does, even if it is less reliable than 4 or 3G for that matter?

    Still not interested, if I get a new phone in a few years, and it has 5G, then fine, but I am certainly not going to update my phone just for 5G, not that we can get it here at the moment.
    Oh, yes, we have on mast I think

    No advantage of 5G on mobile phones to be honest. 5g is best for people who can’t get a decent fixed broadband service.

    Still hopefully the above news will stop the idea of putting masts in lamposts.

    1. Jay says:

      No, 5G is just the latest technology it uses multiple frequencies for different use cases, low for wide coverage and higher for faster speeds.

      Just like how most people wouldn’t see any difference between WiFi N and WiFi 6 the advantages are more nuanced than just “speed” that everyone likes to shout about such as far greater network capacity, lower latency and network slicing

      No one is saying you should rush to buy a phone with 5G now but as everyone naturally upgrades and has a phone with 5G there are advantages to everyone even if it generally seems “no advantage” to the end consumer

    2. ad47uk says:

      @Jay, but the whole propaganda about 5G is speed, that is what we have been told, even if it has not come true for many people. So people will think there is no advantage. The only advantage I can see and that is more to do with the network providers is the cost to run the network, 5G use less power, so we have been told, but 4G will be with us for years. Far too many devices now use it. I think even getting rid of 3G like some networks say they are going to do is a big mistake.
      My phone is around 2 years old now, I will be keeping it as long as I can and even then I will not go out to buy a 5G phone, if there is a phone at the price I am willing to give with 5G and i like it, then so be it. but if not, then I will just get another phone with 4G.

      @Ell, mounting masts in lamppost is not the best Idea, too close to houses for a start and a lot of lampposts don’t really have the space for any more electrics, certainly the ones up by me. I agree with Gary, by the time they have done all the digging to bring cables up here, may as well do fibre for the home.

  9. ELL says:

    Just because the above is being trialed doesn’t mean that masts should stop being put in lamp posts for the simple reason that mmWave is perfect for street lamp posts to extend 5G coverage as the technology itself only has a short range so by mounting them on the lamp posts, the 4 operators can quickly and easily introduce and extend their 5G coverage.

    Take Blackpool for example, O2/Vodafone don’t have any 5G coverage whereas Three/EE do so O2/Vodafone could request planning permission from Blackpool Council to be allowed to install 5G infrastructure along the seafront for example either on lamp posts or even at the various bus and tram stops.

    We should not be opposing any rollout of 5G in any shape or form but rather push for it to be made available in all our areas for use of all customers of the Big 4 regardless if you are a Pay As You Go customer or a Pay Monthly customer.

    1. Gary says:

      How on earth can mounting on lamp posts be classed as quick and easy?

      Additional if the high frequencies can’t transmit through our double skinned brick and block houses then they could go to the expense of trenching a fibre cable to each lamppost, but then they might have well have just trenched a fibre connection to each house anyway, negating much of the need for 5G.

  10. Gregowski says:

    Question 🙂

    Imagine I have 2x 20mhz block in 800 B20. One of them 5G the other 4G. What are the max speeds in theory for both technologies in the same frequency and same channel bandwidth?

  11. clueless says:

    Does that mean they have an unfair advantage?

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