August 21, 2012

Ofcom Approves Everything Everywhere Proposal to Deliver 4G

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Ofcom, the United Kingdom's communications regulator, is set to hold spectrum auctions for next-generation 4G networks later this year. The authority approved an application by mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere, which plans to use existing 1800 MHz spectrum - space used for legacy 2G technologies - to deliver 4G services.

In recent discussions about the upcoming 4G spectrum auction, Ofcom said it expected the UK's three main mobile operators to bid on spectrum space. Named among the three carriers were Everything Everywhere, which is the merged entity of Orange and T-Mobile; Vodafone and Telifonica.

This week Ofcom approved an application submitted in November by mobile phone operator Everything Everywhere, which stated intentions to use existing spectrum to deliver 4G services. This means the operator will be able to use existing 1800 MHz spectrum to deliver 4G services.

"Following a consultation, Ofcom has concluded that varying Everything Everywhere's 1800 MHz licenses now will deliver significant benefits to consumers, and that there is no material risk that those benefits will be outweighed by a distortion of competition," a statement from Ofcom said. "Delaying doing so would therefore be a detriment to consumers."

The upcoming auctions for spectrum will be for the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands. Use of the 1800 MHz band frees up additional space for 4G LTE services, which is said by Ofcom to be 80 percent larger than the spectrum space used for 3G.

As part of the decision, Ofcom has issued varied licenses to Everything Everywhere, which authorizes LTE services beginning September 11, 2012. Everything Everywhere will be allowed to begin offering 4G LTE services in advance of the auctions, before other carriers can start to bid on and offer similar services.

"This means that Everything Everywhere can launch LTE services using its 1800 MHz spectrum at any point from that date, although the precise timing of any launch is a commercial decision for Everything Everywhere," a statement said.

Ofcom in the UK has regulated the 1800 MHz spectrum for several years. In the 1990s, mobile phone companies were awarded varying amounts of spectrum at 900 MHz and 1800 MHz with a condition that the spectrum could only be used for 2G services. At the time, 2G services was primarily used for voice calls and text messages. As time went on and demand for 3G services increased, Ofcom passed a ruling in 2011 to allow the 2G spectrum for use in 3G services.

Everything Everywhere submitted the application to use its 1800 MHz license to provide 4G LTE services on November 23 of last year. It is unclear whether Everything Everywhere will seek to bid on additional spectrum space in the auction, held later this year. Everything Everywhere currently holds space in the 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz spectrum. The bulk of its operations currently reside in the 1800 MHz spectrum, which will be applied toward 4G LTE services some time after the Ofcom designated date in September.