Feeds

Ofcom sets out spectrum mega-auction, again

2Mbps to everyone who can get a voice call

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Ofcom is proposing greater coverage requirements, but fewer ownership caps and simpler lot sizes, in its latest round of proposals for the forthcoming mega-auction.

The proposals include pushing 2Mbps of data to everywhere you can get a 2G voice call today – which should cover 98 per cent of the country – and capping overall spectrum ownership to ensure there will still be four networks competing in the UK. But most of the proposal document (189-page PDF/989kb, harder to read than the last one) is comprised of meticulous justifications attempting to second-guess the inevitable objections from the industry.

The auction is supposed to be happening later this year, and these proposals follow Ofcom's last attempt almost 10 months ago. That effort was decried by just about everyone as being partisan, favouritist, and even illegal. Ofcom has made some significant concessions, though it explains them away as responses to a changing technical landscape, but despite that, and the detailed justifications, it's unlikely this set of proposals will come though the consultation process unscathed.

The last set of proposals included pre-allocation of prime spectrum to Three, the UK's smallest operator who missed out on the freebie spectrum which was given to the others when they launched their 2G services. Everything Everywhere was also given special treatment last time to make sure it got some of the 800MHz band, as it owns neither of the desirable 900MHz bands which were given to (and are still held by) Telefonica and Vodafone.

The new proposals drop both those conditions, justifying the change by claiming that increased use of femto and pico cells make ownership of spectrum at 800MHz less important.

Three has already said publically that it won't be able to survive without some low-end spectrum, either at 800MHz or some of the 900MHz currently owned by Voda and Telefonica, but perhaps the operator is unaware of the benefits femtocells can bring?

Ofcom does want Three to survive, and even provides a chart showing how Three's desperation for spectrum provides an incentive for competitors to muscle it out.

Chart from page 53

We're not trying to paint Three as the victim... oh... hang on... yes we are

To prevent that Ofcom will provide an overall ownership cap of 210MHz (written as 2x105MHz for arcane, and increasingly confusing, reasons). That will include the current holdings*, so limits what the operators will be able to buy. Those current holdings run to 75MHz or so for Telefonica and Vodafone, which Three only having 35MHz. Even Everything Everywhere only has 170MHz of spectrum at the moment, and will have to sell off 30MHz of that as a condition of merging the portfolios of Orange and T-Mobile, so everyone has some room to expand.

The proposals also suggest that one licensee, at 800MHz, should be required to provide 2Mb of data to everywhere it currently provides 2G voice telephony, plus any extension paid for from the government's £150m Mobile Infrastructure Programme (MIP). Ofcom reckons slapping an LTE decoder and antenna onto 2G base stations should be all that's required, and that the licensee (it proposed that "just one 800MHz licence contains the obligation") will have to do that by the end of 2017.

That requirement will upset BT, who has previously stated that coverage obligations are an effective state subsidy and therefore (in their opinion) illegal, so expect to see a robust response from BT. Three will moan a lot about the lack of restitution for the freebies given to everyone else, and probably threaten to leave the country (again), while Everything Everywhere will complain that it just has to have some sub 1GHz spectrum reserved for it.

Vodafone and Telefonica will be sitting smugly on the sidelines, pleased to see that their 900MHz bands aren't being threatened. They will have to pay more for them; Ofcom is committed to using the auction prices to recalculate the annual fee both companies pay.

But overall Ofcom has made a good stab at appeasing everyone involved, perhaps better than could have been expected, but whether it's good enough to appease everyone – and prevent legal challenges – we'll have to see. Responses are to be in by 22 March, then they'll be a final proposal, and then we'll see if we're really going to get an auction in 2012. ®

* All spectrum holdings except the four 5MHz bands at 1900MHz, which are still reserved for UMTS TDD services that no one ever developed, so the bands remain empty.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
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.