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4G operators move into new homes in the spectrum 'hood

Another £27m changes hands

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Bidders in the UK's spectrum auction have now sorted out who's going where, and who's going to knock out our TV reception once the 4G networks get switched on.

There were two bits of spectrum auctioned off: the low-frequency 800MHz band, which was freed up when analogue terrestrial TV was switched off, and the higher-frequency 2.6 GHz band.

The auction wound up a couple of weeks back, but that only decided how much spectrum each company would get. Working out which company gets which block has taken another fortnight and seen another £27m change hands as operators vied to add the perfect spectrum to their portfolio.

4G 800MHz Spectrum Map

The snapshot of the 800MHz band shows us that Three, the UK's smallest network operator, will be snuggling up to the Freeview transmissions, so it will be more concerned than most with the progress of AT800 - the body charged with preventing undue interference to our TV viewing.

Vodafone stumped up an additional £12m to put a little distance between itself and Freeview, though EE managed to achieve the same thing without cost.

4G 2.6GHz Spectrum Map

The middle block is the Time Division Duplex spectrum, the surrounding ones are uplink and downlink pairs

In the 2.6GHz band, only BT-subsidiary Niche Spectrum paid out for a specific allocation, handing Ofcom another £15m to secure the FDD block it wanted.

Operators want specific blocks because they've already started deploying networks on the basis that they would get them, or at least buying kit ready for deployment. Those deployments can be changed, but in some cases it's easier to buy the right wavelength and the two-phase auction was designed to facilitate that.

Being next to Freeview isn't a big deal: any operator could interfere with TV reception and they're all contributing to the £180m mitigation fund, but Three's 4G transmissions will, in some areas, be a single megahertz away from the BBC - and so will likely suffer more than the rest.

Now that the frequencies have been allocated the networks can be switched on. Soon we'll find out just how bad the interference problem will really be. ®

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