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By: MarkJ - 6 January, 2011 (9:23 AM)
3g uk mobile broadbandofcomCommunications regulator Ofcom has today officially made the 2G (mobile voice) radio spectrum frequencies, specifically 900MHz and 1800MHz licences, available for use by 3G / UMTS and related Mobile Broadband services in the UK.

The move follows a government direction to make the change in December 2010, which came shortly after the regulator found that liberalising 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum in the hands of the existing licensees (i.e. O2 and Vodafone UK) was likely to benefit consumers and unlikely to result in a material distortion of competition (here).
Key Benefits of 900MHz and 1800MHz Spectrum Liberalisation

* Greater network capacity allowing more customers to be served and to enjoy higher mobile broadband speeds (both 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum);

* Improved quality of coverage allowing customers to use mobile broadband in more locations with greater consistency (900MHz spectrum);

* Improved in-building coverage (900MHz spectrum).

* Wider coverage of rural areas (900MHz spectrum).
The largest benefit, especially in terms of Mobile Broadband coverage for rural areas, is expected to come from 900MHz, which is already well developed and could provide many consumers with an almost instant improvement (data access).
Ofcom's Statement on Variation of 900MHz and 1800MHz Licences (PDF)
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/900-1800mhz-wireless-telegraphy/statement/Statement.pdf
UPDATE 7th January 2011

The CEO of Three (3) has attacked Ofcom's move in a BBC article and described it as giving their rivals an "unfair competitive advantage". 3 UK does not currently hold any 2G spectrum and is entirely focused on 3G coverage, although it does have a network sharing agreement in place with T-Mobile.

The operator has called on Ofcom to ensure that the 2012 auction of "new" spectrum in the 900MHz and 2.6GHz ranges is conducted fairly and on a level playing field.
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