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By: MarkJ - 29 July, 2010 (12:04 PM)
mobile broadband logoThe UK governments Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey MP, yesterday confirmed plans that will see Ofcom auction off crucial 2.6GHz and 800MHz spectrum and liberalise 2G bands at 900MHz and 1800MHz "by the end of 2011".

The 800MHz radio spectrum band is currently still used for old analogue Television (TV) signals, which is instead to be converted for use with modern 3G and future 4G ( WiMAX , LTE ) Mobile Broadband services. Similarly the government also wants 2G (voice) spectrum at 900MHz and 1800MHz to be used for the same purpose.
The Measures Include:

• Requiring OFCOM to co-ordinate a combined auction of 2.6GHz and 800MHz spectrum as soon as possible in order that operators can deliver widespread high speed mobile broadband;

• Requiring OFCOM carry out a competitive assessment of future 3G and 4G markets, including the potential for new entrants. Their assessment will inform the design of the auction, aimed at enabling delivery of new competitive mobile broadband services for UK consumer and business benefit;

• Liberalising 2G spectrum at 900MHz and 1800MHz, implementing the EU’s revised GSM directive to allow operators to use these frequencies for 3G technologies;

• Making 3G licences indefinite to encourage greater investment in 3G services to reach more consumers across the UK. They will also be made tradable, and;

• Requiring Ofcom to apply annual licence fees to reflect the market value of these licences which will be applied after the initial licence term (ends 31 December 2021).
The result of all this would, it's hoped, improve coverage of Mobile Broadband internet access services and thus help to achieve the new government's aim of making a minimum broadband internet download speed of at least 2Mbps available to everybody in the country by 2012 2015. Interestingly the USC goal isn't even mentioned once by BIS.

Ed Vaizey commented:

"The past 20 years has seen a revolution in mobile technologies and devices that have transformed the way we communicate, learn and do business. We want the UK market to remain at the fore of delivering devices like the iPad and smart phones but they need the networks to continue to improve and increase services.

Under our plans, our mobile industry will have access to the 21st Century infrastructure it needs to give UK consumers the latest technologies and even better coverage for broadband on their mobile phones."

However an interesting update to the The Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 (PDF) appears to have caught eyes of The Register . In it the government says that, by 30th June 2013, mobile operators must deliver a network capable of offering Mobile Broadband download speeds of "not less than 768kbps in a lightly loaded cell". That hardly bodes well for the 2Mbps USC goal.
The Added Text

By 30th June 2013 the licensee must provide an electronic communications network that is capable of providing mobile telecommunications services to an area within which at least 90% of the population of the United Kingdom lives and with a 90% probability that users in outdoor locations within that area can receive the service with a sustained downlink speed of not less than 768kbps in a lightly loaded cell;
The Register quotes this as a general position but it actually only applies to services operating over the 2100MHz radio spectrum band (i.e. 3G UMTS), which is of course just one of several frequencies that will ultimately carry Mobile Broadband services.

However the real dilemma will still be in how Ofcom tackles the thorny issue of 900MHz 2G voice re-farming for use by 3G services. The spectrum is still owned and used by O2 and Vodafone UK, neither of which are particularly keen to share it.
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