UK Delays 4G Auction

Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator in the UK, has delayed their 4G spectrum auctions in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, reports the BBC. It now hopes to auction those frequencies towards the end of 2012.

Originally scheduled to take place early in 2012, Ofcom said the strength of the responses from potential bidders and consultants persuaded it to delay the auction.

Ofcom said the delay won’t impact when 4G services become available, since the spectrum to support them will not be free until 2013. The auction will also include parts of the spectrum historically used by analog television.

Vodafone welcomed the delay.

“We agree with Ofcom that there is time for reflection given that the spectrum will not be available until 2013. It is very important to get the rules right to ensure that the roll-out of 4G services benefits consumers and the wider economy.”

Mobile operator Three fears that it will run out of room on its 3G network unless the auction happens quickly, reports the BBC. Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and O2 each denied claims that they had been trying to stall the UK spectrum auction, following accusations from Three’s new chief executive David Dyson, reports Telecoms.

The auction will sell off a chunk of spectrum equivalent to three quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today. Bill Ray in The Register has a review of the mega-auction politics.

The 4G spectrum delay comes as two mobile operators kick off a trial of 4G LTE service.

Everything Everywhere and BT are both testing LTE in Cornwall. The trial will deliver broadband to 200 customers who live around St. Newlyn East and the surrounding area of South Newquay. The test is partly aimed at showing how 4G wireless technology can be used to fill in rural broadband “notspots”.

Over a quarter of adults (27 per cent) and almost half of teenagers (47 per cent) in the UK now own a smartphone, according to Ofcoms latest Communications Market Report.

Most (59 per cent) have acquired their smartphone over the past year and make more calls and send more texts than regular mobile users. Some 81 per cent of smartphone users make calls every day compared with 53 per cent of regular users.

Ofcom also expects that White Space technology could be launched in the UK in 2013 and is considering use of other White Spaces – such as those in the band currently used by FM radio services.

The United Kingdom has about 80 million mobile subscribers, with a 130% penetration rate (December 2009). The top mobile operators in the UK are:

  1. T-Mobile/Orange (now called Everything Everywhere), with 27 million subs, and owned by France Télécom and Deutsche Telekom
  2. 02 with 22 million subs, owned by Telefónica, based in Spain.
  3. Vodafone with 19 million subs, owned by Vodafone Inc., headquartered in London. It owns 45% of Verizon Wireless.
  4. Three with 7.2 million subs, owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa
  5. Virgin Mobile UK, with 1.35 million subs, operates on the Everything Everywhere network under a MVNO agreement

The UK government aims to raise £5 billion ($8 billion) from the forthcoming spectrum auction. The UK will auction 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz for the equivalent of three quarters of the mobile spectrum that is in use today. Their auction was planned to start in the first quarter of 2012.

The UK’s analogue television signals are being switched off, region by region, between 2008 and 2012. In principle, this means that all 368MHz might be available for new uses, but it was previously decided by the Government that 256MHz of the 368MHz should be used for digital terrestrial television (DTT). This digital broadcasting will be provided by six multiplexes, each of which can carry a number of television channels and some other services.

This decision allowed digital terrestrial television to expand its coverage – to match that of analogue, at 98.5% of the population; and its capacity – to around 10 times that of analogue in most of the country, and around 5 times elsewhere.

At the same time, digital switchover will allow the remaining spectrum – 112MHz – to be released for new uses. It is this 112MHz that forms the core of the ‘digital dividend’.

The European Commission has ruled that member states must allow 4G devices to access both 900 and 1,800 MHz radio frequencies by the end of the year.

Mobile wireless capability is central to the EU’s Digital Agenda and it believes that an increase in Internet uptake will boost competitiveness of the EU’s common market. Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for the EU’s Digital Agenda, said in a statement (pdf) that the “the decision opens the way for the latest 4G mobile devices to gain access to the radio spectrum they need to operate.

In other news, India’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Kapil Sibal Monday unveiled the draft National Telecom Policy 2011.

The unveiling of the new policy is significant because the last telecom policy was unveiled in 1999 when India had only a few million phone subscribers. The policy is also very important keeping in mind the ongoing controversy of the 2G scam, dubbed as one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of independent India.

According to reports, the average spectrum holding in India is around a third of the world average (18 MHz/operator). The draft policy addresses the issue by proposing to:

  • Optimize transmission of services to consumers irrespective of their devices or locations by Fixed-Mobile Convergence thus making available valuable spectrum for other wireless services.
  • Ensure adequate availability of spectrum and its allocation in a transparent manner through market related processes. Make available additional 300 MHz spectrum for IMT services by the year 2017 and another 200 MHz by 2020.
  • Make available adequate globally harmonised spectrum in the bands of 450 MHz, 700 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1910 MHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz and bands identified by ITU for commercial mobile services
  • Make 300 MHz of spectrum available by 2017 and aim to 500 MHz spectrum available by 2020.

India’s Reliance Industries , U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm and Indian mobile market leader Bharti Airtel won wireless broadband spectrum in a state auction last year. Ericsson , the world’s top telecoms gear maker, said on Friday it has signed India’s first-ever equipment contract TD-LTE technology.

Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, targeted 600 million broadband connections by 2020. He also proposed that the government should introduce a bill mandating the “right to broadband” much like previous laws guaranteeing the right to information, right to education and right to food. As of September, 2011, there are over 850 million mobile subscribers in India, according to the report.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Ofcom: White Spaces by 2013, UK Gets Free Public WiFi, Europe’s Digital Divide Auction, LTE Spectrum: It’s War, German 4G Auction: It’s Done, Auctions Winding Down in Germany & India, Germany 4G Auctions Begin, Europe to Follow, EU: Global LTE Roaming at 1.8 GHz, T-Mobile Makes Its (4G) Move, End Near for Indian WiMAX?, WiMAX & LTE: Policy Vs Pragmatism, India’s Broadband Auction: It’s Done, India’s Broadband Auction: No Free Lunch, TD-LTE Gains Momentum, WiMAX Forum: Not Dead Yet, Yota Dumps WiMAX, Australia: WiMAX to TD-LTE, LTE-Advanced Progress, Ericsson Demos 1 Gbps Advanced LTE, LTE-Advanced Tested in Korea, UK Getting LTE, WiMAX to TD-LTE: Everybody’s Doin’ It, Sprint’s LTE Advantage, Speculation on Sprint Infrastructure, Clearwire Chooses LTE Advanced,

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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