O2 have enabled their 3G network to have extended reach in London this week, the company have announced, enabling the 900MHz spectrum to be used for 3G services. Until recently, Ofcom rules only allowed the 900MHz frequencies allocated to Vodafone and O2 to be used for GSM (2G) mobile services, but a recent change has allowed the operators to re-use the spectrum for 3G services. This change gives the two companies a key advantage as lower frequencies can travel a further distance, allowing coverage areas from a cell tower to increase. Previously, 3G services were only allow to be used in the 2.1GHz range.
"This... switch on is the latest in a series of network enhancements for O2, and is a first for the UK and Telefónica. We've acted quickly to bring the benefits of 3G over 900MHz spectrum to our customers and we're thrilled with the results. Quite simply, on O2's network, more customers can use more data, and experience it quicker."Nigel Purdy, (Chief Technology Officer) O2
O2 has also been enabling 3G in the 900Mhz spectrum in other cities including Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. The company say it gives a 50% increase in network capacity and 30% faster downloads. Vodafone are expected to follow suit, but no other UK network operators hold 900MHz spectrum. Orange and T-Mobile both hold 1800MHz spectrum, but enabling this for 3G doesn't provide as significant a benefit as the 900MHz range.
One suggested use for 3G in the 900MHz spectrum is to allow network operators to bring mobile broadband to rural areas where no broadband services currently exist. Anyone who has regularly used a mobile broadband service will know that coverage and speeds can vary, whilst services aren't always that cheap. This could still be a welcome service to those that live in broadband not-spots however.
One gotcha for this upgrade is that not all mobile handsets and devices have been designed to use 3G in the 900MHz spectrum, meaning the upgrade will make no difference to many users.