Ofcom has announced a number of new proposals for making 4G mobile spectrum available in the UK. There are revised plans for promoting competition and new measures designed to ensure 4G coverage is available to at least 98% of the population.
The regulator made today’s announcement following a consultation process last year.
Last October, the government announced plans to invest £150 million in mobile coverage in so-called ‘not spot’ areas with poor or no mobile service.
Ofcom is now proposing that one 800MHz 4G operator will be required to provide 4G coverage that matches existing 2G coverage and also extends into mobile ‘not spot’ areas of the UK, with the £150 million providing 4G infrastructure. This could extend 4G mobile coverage further than simply obliging an operator to cover 98% of the UK by population.
In addition, some spectrum in the 2.6GHz band is likely to be reserved for a group of companies to deliver innovative new mobile services for consumers. Potential applications include short-range mobile networks for small areas such as student campuses, hospitals and commercial offices.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said “This is a crucial step in preparing for the most significant spectrum release in the UK for many years. The proposals published today will influence the provision of services to consumers for the next decade and beyond. The UK benefits from being one of the most competitive mobile phone markets in Europe. This means that consumers pay less for mobile communications services and have the choice to shop around for packages that suit them best. As the UK enters a new generation of mobile communications, Ofcom’s objective is to promote effective competition and to stimulate both investment and innovation. In addition we are proposing a significant enhancement of mobile broadband, extending 4G coverage beyond levels of existing 2G coverage – helping to serve many areas of the UK that have traditionally been underserved by network coverage.”
Organisations and individuals are being invited to comment on these revised proposals by 22nd March 2012. A final decision on the auction design will be made this summer, with the auction expected to start by the end of the year.