2/18/2009 1:23:00 PM
Ofcom plans spectrum split on behalf of Vodafone and O2
Ofcom has proposed that Vodafone and O2 give up around 15% of their 2G spectrum as part of the Government’s plans to bring broadband to everyone in the UK.
The operators would be required to give up 5MHz each of their 35MHz allocation in the 900MHz spectrum band, which is currently used for 2G, for next generation 3G services.
The proposal is part of communications minister Stephen Carter’s plans to bring a minimum of 2Mbps broadband to everyone in the UK, through a combination of mobile and fixed lines, which were revealed in his Digital Britain report.
The solution will be imposed if operators fail to meet their own compromise on freeing the spectrum.
The move follows Carter’s latest meeting with the big five mobile operators, where it was discussed how to take forward his plans to bring broadband to all by 2012. Operators will be forced to find a compromise on spectrum by April this year, or the Government will legislate.
Former Ofcom official Kip Meek has been selected by Carter to oversee efforts to end operators’ dispute over spectrum.
Vodafone chief executive Guy Laurence, T-Mobile UK managing director Jim Hyde and 3’s chief, Kevin Russell, attended the meeting, as well as representatives from Orange, O2 and Ofcom.
Ofcom’s initial consultation proposed to remove the conditions attached to 2G and 3G licences that dictate how the spectrum bands should be used. This means that the spectrum, which is currently restricted to 2G services – voice and limited data – could be freed up for a ‘wider range’ of uses, including 3G.
The regulator said its approach would ‘safeguard competition and consumer interests’ and ‘create major opportunities for innovation in wireless services’.
Ofcom will aim to auction the released spectrum in summer 2012, subject to
the consultation. The body said that other spectrum bands do not need to be released because they do not provide ‘the same advantages’ as 900MHz.