The overdue 4G spectrum auctions are creeping up on us, and Ofcom has launched its latest set of proposals for the spectrum auction, with a ten week consultation period running between March and May 2012. The new proposals are that a special condition be attached to the 4G licences requiring them to provision a 4G service to some 98% of the UK population.
4G coverage was planned to have a target of 95% originally, so an increase to 98% indoor coverage of the UK population is a welcome proposal. A second proposal revolves around the £150m announced by the Government to improve mobile coverage in the UK, with Ofcom proposing that one 800MHz (which has better penetration inside buildings) licensee will deliver coverage matching that of the 2G networks, and using the extra funding expand coverage beyond the 98% level.
Ofcom is also looking at retaining a small part of the 2.6GHz spectrum for use in innovative new mobile services particularly short-range services, e.g. networks for campuses, hospitals and large commercial premises.
The final design of the auction is expected in the summer of 2012, with the auction commencing in Q4.
The delayed 4G roll-out is one major reason why mobile providers are so keen to diversify into Wi-Fi networks, particularly in a year when millions of high mobile visitors are due in the UK for the Olympics.
How the 98% of population coverage is measured is crucial, since even today it is not uncommon to travel on trains and motorways where 2G voice services are marginal or non-existent. The problem being these don't count towards to the statistics, as no-one lives on those transport links.