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Ofcom smears 3G across spectrum

900, 1800MHz approval in August

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Ofcom has finally proposed the use of 3G technologies at 2G frequencies, slipping the amendment into a bundle of updates and tweaks that should get approval come August.

The bundle includes updates to rules on Ultra Wide Band and permitting radar installations at level crossings, but also permits the deployment of 3G networking technology at the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands which were previously restricted to 2G (GSM) operations. But one shouldn't expect to see 3G spreading immediately as there's neither the infrastructure nor the handsets to support that just yet.

The EU directive on 900 and 1800MHz made it just a matter of time until the UK approved the deregulation, but the subject has been politically difficult in the UK where 2G frequencies were allocated and 3G spectrum was bought (at huge cost) on the basis that it was the only place where 3G operations would be allowed. Permitting 3G over 2G is nice for those who got 2G spectrum (everyone except 3) but also devalues the 3G spectrum which operators spent so much money obtaining, and that has made the issue something of a hot potato.

But with the government committed to pushing Kip Meek's spectrum plan those issues are now being resolved, so Ofcom's final approval should go through in August.

That approval comes as part of a batch of tweaks and updates (pdf) Ofcom will be consulting on until May 7th. Those include removing some of the more outdated restrictions - such as the channel allocations for wireless CCTV at 2.4 and 5.8GHz, and the restriction on transmitting voice at 433MHz - and allowing National Rail to deploy radar (24GHz) on level crossings without requiring a licence for every one.

We're not convinced that radar would prevent every teenager-tries-to-beat-the-lights tragedy, but with 2000 "incidents" every year automated detection can probably save some lives.

Satellite broadband users will be able to ratchet up the power a bit, from 50 to 55dBM, and those whose transmissions take place underwater (and below 30MHz) get much higher limits, assuming their kit automatically shuts off when exposed to the air - the Ministry of Defence is apparently keen for its divers to be able to talk to each other.

Otherwise the proposals include some corrections to the existing regulations and slight modifications aligning power limits to EU levels, but if you feel strongly about some of this the proposals are open to comment until May 7th with a view to implementation in August. ®

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