Feeds

Spectrum refarming: What's it got to do with you?

Dropping 1200MHz will change your life

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

One way or another UK network operators will deploy 3G technologies at 2G frequencies. But will running HSDPA at 900MHz change the way you talk?

Ofcom has issued its recommendations and soon UK networks will be able to deploy 3G technology at frequencies that already blanket most of the country. This practice is known as refarming in the trade.

The UK won't be leading the world in putting 3G at 900MHz. Some countries have been running 3G networks at 2G frequencies for a while - as opposed to the reserved-for-3G-spectrum at 2.1GHz - so you might already have a compatible handset in your pocket.

And given Ofcom's decision to deny operators the right to deploy 4G technology in the band, it looks like 3G will be the only technology knocking around at 900MHz for the foreseeable future.

Conceptual illustration explaining how the radiofrequency spectrum is being "re-farmed" by telecoms

Telecoms already have suitable cell sites for 900MHz coverage, but all those sites will need a hardware upgrade.

When digital mobile phones were first deployed in the UK, Vodafone and BT (later to become O2) were allocated frequencies in the 900MHz band to run their networks. Later One-2-One (later T-Mobile) and Orange bought spectrum at 1800MHz to run competing networks (Vodafone also bought a bit of 1800MHz). When 3G came along, it was limited to operating at 2.1GHz, so all four incumbents, and newcomer 3, bought spectrum at 2.1GHz and started building 3G networks.

The higher the frequency the shorter the range, and the worse the penetration into buildings, so 3G is expensive to build, particularly if you want in-building coverage. Unfortunately the licences forbade the operators from deploying 3G at the lower frequencies, until now.

Around the world, operators have already started deploying UMTS900 (as the technology is known) and Ofcom is obliged to allow the same thing in the UK. It's taken a while, and even now 3 is very unhappy with the recommendations, but once the dust settles from the inevitable appeals we should see 3G technology becoming much more widely available.

3G and 2G technologies will happily co-exist, so they'll be no immediate switch off of 2G. GSM handsets already have a 900MHz antenna, but not all of them can receive a 3G signal over it.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?