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Ofcom ploughs up UK spectrum fields, reseeds them with 4G

Used to be all 2G round here, far as the eye could see

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Ofcom has published plans to refarm mobile radio spectrum into 4G goodness, letting operators deploy whatever technology they like in their existing holdings as well as the bands on which they're currently bidding.

The proposals aren't surprising: Ofcom has made it clear that restricting bands to specific technologies is against its ethos and that refarming of the mobile bands was inevitable, so this is a welcome update delivered with surprising alacrity rather than anything earth-shattering.

So confident is Ofcom that refarming will prove uncontroversial it has bulked out the proposal (pdf, coma inducing apart from one line*) with requests from Telefonica and Vodafone to increase 3G transmission power a little, plus some contractual housekeeping, none of which should raise the public ire.

The increase in transmission power is 3dB, or effectively twice as much, but it's still well within safe margins and more about increasing coverage than microwaving locals.

The contractual stuff includes dropping the requirement to cover 80 per cent of the population with 3G, as that becomes redundant with the 90 per cent obligation which kicks in come June and specifies connectivity rather than technology - 758Kb/s, outdoors, 90 per cent of the time, frequency and technology irrelevant.

The refarming was assumed in the proposals outlining the 4G auction which is currently in progress. The auction takes place in secret, but right now there are telecoms executives deciding how much they can afford to spend on 4G bands at 800MHz and 2.6GHz, with bidding expected to last another week or two.

Those bidding will be doing so on the assumption that no-one raises any significant objections to the refaming proposals, though anyone wanting to do so will have until the end of March to file their response. ®

Bootnote

*The line relates to the clearing of the 4G bands, expected to wind up in June 2013, and it's only really funny if you're Scottish - "some restrictions may remain in the Highlands and Islands regions, although these are unlikely to affect the delivery of 4G services in Edinburgh and Glasgow".

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