Ofcom has today introduced measures to allow O2 and Vodafone to refarm their 2G spectrum for 3G services.
The move follows the Government’s Direction to Ofcom on mobile spectrum, which among other things, requires Ofcom to vary existing 2G licences in this way.
It will allow O2 and Vodafone to refarm their 900Mhz spectrum and Everything Everywhere to refarm its 1800 Mhz spectrum for 3G from today.
The new measure will help mobile phone operators to increase mobile broadband speeds, deliver improved in-building coverage and widen mobile broadband coverage in rural areas, Ofcom said.
The operators could previously only use a limited amount of spectrum to deliver 3G due to licensing restrictions in the 1990s.
The UK was required to liberalise 2G spectrum for 3G use by two pieces of European legislation – the amended GSM Directive and associated Radio Spectrum Decision. The Government directed Ofcom to vary the existing licences to achieve this liberalisation on 20 December 2010.This Direction came into force on 30 December 2010.
An Everything Everywhere spokesman said: ‘Today’s announcement comes as no surprise, and follows on as a matter of course from the Government’s recent Direction. However, we urge Ofcom to ensure that the sub-1GHz duopoly that currently exists is rebalanced through the rules for the forthcoming Spectrum auctions. Only then can the UK remain a fair and competitive market to stimulate investment and innovation for the long term digital future and leadership of Britain.’
Vodafone UK CEO Guy Laurence said: ‘We welcome this change to our spectrum licence. It will bring significant benefits to our customers in the form of faster and better mobile broadband with wider rural coverage and stronger inbuilding signal.’
An O2 spokeswoman said: ‘We welcome the conclusion of Ofcom’s licensing procedure and can now begin the process for deploying UMTS900.’