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Government may step in over 900MHz mobile broadband spectrum battle
Thursday 02 April 2009 11:23:14 by John Hunt

The government may have to step in to sort out a long running battle over who should be able to operate services in the 900MHz spectrum which is currently owned and used solely by Vodafone and O2 for GSM mobile phone services. Lord Carter informed networks that they had until the end of April to resolve the dispute by trading spectrum between themselves.

With a suggested universal service obligation (USO) of broadband running at 2Mbps, this spectrum could be vital in providing services where it is too expensive to provide broadband over the fixed line telephony infrastructure. The 900MHz spectrum has an advantage over the existing 2100MHz used for 3G services in the UK as the signal can travel a longer distance and can also penetrate further into buildings, allowing better coverage.

A former Ofcom official, Kip Meek, has been drafted in to help broker the deal between the mobile operators although reaching a solution with a month remaining seems unlikely as each operator has different ideas on how the spectrum should be divided up. Orange has offered to provide the USO of 2Mbps (without additional funding) as long as it gets two 5MHz slots allocated to it from within the 900MHz spectrum. Three want two 15MHz slots to be made available. Ofcom's solution is that both Vodafone and O2 will give up two slots of 2.5MHz each which would then be auctioned off, with Vodafone and O2 prohibited from bidding.

Vodafone and O2 are likely to fight any imposed solution in the courts and this may impede getting the 2Mbps broadband USO available to those in some rural locations by 2012.

Comments

Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
USO over mobile BB. I must me get me some of that :-/

I've got a simple solution to this issue - give it up, folks! Mobile broadband is for people who are mobile (or temporarily unable to use a fixed connection).

It does not offer the service levels needed to compensate for lack of investment in rural areas.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
AndrueC - well said.
Mobile is for phone users, not for businesses and busy families. It should never be contemplated as forming part of any USO.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
This just defies belief, Government want a USO and they want to take spectrum off 2 mobile operators and *auction* it. Yep they want companies to pay for the spectrum to assist with the UK's broadband USO.

Between this and the fibre tax no wonder progress is slow.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
This, the fibre tax and the huge regulatory burden on BT.

Start scrapping rules and replacing them with an oversight board which simply makes telecom companies justify their rollouts.
Posted by Gzero over 8 years ago
@dawn

Nah, that would be too clever and sensible for them to do.
Posted by timmay over 8 years ago
They should let Vodafone and O2 use the spectrum they already have for 3G!
Posted by uniquename over 8 years ago
Presumably as Vodaphone and O2 have this spectrum between them, they bid for it and won when it came up for auction originally? The others didn't think it was worth whatever was paid? V and O2 had the foresight to buy and now they are to be forced to give some up?

So is this another case of this government changing the rules retrospectively?

And who will get the money? It ought to be V and O2.
Posted by Gzero over 8 years ago
@ uniquename
But all this dividing the availability of the spectrum might cause the bidding to go sour.
Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
Not withstanding the limitations of Mobile Broadband - would they not be better off, agreeing to have one build and lots of sharing in these remote areas. The notion of an auction is incompatitible with establishing a USO of any meaning.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
No, nothing to do with regulatory burden on BT slowing progress, quite the opposite actually BT love using said regulation as an excuse when if it were more robust and they were to whinge less it would offer them a reasonable return.

In a perfect world Openreach wouldn't even be in BT and would supply infrastructure only, that'd sort regulation out in one hit.
Posted by adriandaz over 8 years ago
I think Vodafone and O2 were given the frequencies in the 900mhz spectrum...
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Dixi - And the consequences of doing that in other countries have actually increased prices quite dramatically.

Anyway, I think your argument's nuts based on BT's published figures. Going to fibre earlier would of cost them billions and probably had a negative return.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"The 900MHz spectrum has an advantage over the existing 2100MHz used for 3G services in the UK as the signal can travel a longer distance and can also penetrate further into buildings, allowing better coverage."

Hmm thats something i didnt know, so i guess the providers that use 900mhz technically provider a wider area coverage wise than the 1800mhz providers??
Posted by timmay over 8 years ago
"Hmm thats something i didnt know, so i guess the providers that use 900mhz technically provider a wider area coverage wise than the 1800mhz providers?"

Yes this is the reason O2 and Vodafone have the best coverage indoors and in rural areas.
Posted by otester over 8 years ago
Currently on O2, 2km+ from nearest mast.

GPRS/EDGE: Full.
UTMS/HSDPA: 3/4 bars.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Thanks for that timmay, i knew orange and T-Mobile used 1800mhz and O2 and vodafone were 900mhz, never knew it made a significant difference to coverage though, i thought all the providers now had ROUGHLY the same percent coverage wise. Interesting
Posted by PDPman over 8 years ago
If you remember, Orange at one time were shouting about having the most base stations - 'course they were, as they needed more as they could only use the 1800MHz band which carries much shorter distances. That's also why Radio 4 on 200kHz long wave only needed a handful of UK transmitters to work well.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Interesting points PDPman and probably something many of us including myself have never thought about until now :)
Posted by donkey_hellfire over 8 years ago
The Australian government has announced a massive project to extend broadband internet systems across the country.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described Australia as a "broadband backwater" and likened the project to building the railways in the 19th Century.

He dropped plans for a private tender, in favour of a government investment of about A$43bn ($30bn, £20.9bn)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7986918.stm
Posted by donkey_hellfire over 8 years ago
Experts advised the government to choose instead the more ambitious fibre-to-the-home network offering 100 megabits per second, accessible by 90% of Australian homes.

Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Well yes, and based off the initial plans, and remembering how tech-savvy the Aus government is (or rather, is not), it's highly telling that no private company was willing to take on a £21 bil contract. Disaster, inbound.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Well yes, and based off the initial plans, and remembering how tech-savvy the Aus government is (or rather, is not)"


Same as the UK government then is it not? Only the aussies had the sense to realise FTTC is a pile of carp

quote"it's highly telling that no private company was willing to take on a £21 bil contract. Disaster, inbound."

A bit like BT will probably be subsidised by UK government rather than pay the WHOLE bill thereself then?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
No, the Aussie government, a collection of commited technophobes, are pushing for FTTH. This says much about their grasp of the economics.

And no, I don't see government subsidies of BT. I do see massive regulation, though. The government should indeed be paying for BT's FTTC in payment for the massive, excessive regulation load.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"And no, I don't see government subsidies of BT."

Obviously you havent been keeping up with the news about BTs fibre rollout.

quote"I do see massive regulation, though. The government should indeed be paying for BT's FTTC in payment for the massive, excessive regulation load."

Explain please why a government should subsidise a private company with my taxes for a so called fibre service with rates around 5Mb for the upstream? I can think of a gazillion things better government cash and my taxes can be used for.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
So no BT fanboy got an answer as to "why a government should subsidise a private company with my taxes for a so called fibre service with rates around 5Mb for the upstream?"

Why am i not shocked?
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