Broadband News

EU release 2G spectrum for faster services

The European Union announced that the Council of Ministers has followed the European Parliament in approving plans to allow the use of 900MHz GSM spectrum for other services such as 3G or newer 4G technologies like LTE. This is expected to add wood to the fire for mobile operators who are currently battling over the re-allocation of the 900MHz spectrum.

The 1987 GSM Directive reserved part of the 900MHz spectrum to only be used by GSM based devices, an older 2G technology that all mobile phones across Europe support. Adapting the rules allows it to be used for mobile broadband services which use 3G or 3.5G technology (and future technologies) to reach further, increasing the performance and range. The problem with this is that only two mobile operators in the UK, Vodafone and O2, have parts of this lucrative 900MHz spectrum, whilst the others are left up in the 1800MHz GSM range. Orange, T-Mobile and Three do not have any of the lower band so will be severely disadvantaged if Vodafone and O2 are able to create more competitive services by the redeployment of the 900MHz spectrum for newer services.

Indeed, there is already a battle occurring between the mobile operators over whether Vodafone and O2 should be allowed to dominate the 900MHz band on their own, with the government trying to help broker a deal. Ofcom suggest that each of Vodafone and O2 should give up two lots of 2.5MHz (from their current allocation of two lots of 17.4MHz blocks) which could be auctioned off to another provider. Vodafone and O2 are obviously against any plans that sees them relinquish their precious spectrum and are expected to fight any decisions in the courts. The new EU rules are expected to be valid from September.


It should be remembered that O2 supply voice/data/push to talk
to all the emergency services in the UK using their existing allocated radio spectrum.
ie. all emergency services two way radio's were replaced with o2 'push to talk' mobile phones, some time ago as part of a massive long term contract.

I very much doubt that O2 will loose any of its radio spectrum to Orange or T-mobile.

  • veryteknical
  • over 11 years ago

Isn't that the TETRA network that runs at ~400Mhz though!

  • timmay
  • over 11 years ago

Airwave uses a quite different different frequency allocation to that allocated to mobile networks.
Maybe "digital dividend" frequencies could be allocated to Orange, T Mobile and 3 ?

  • alwall
  • over 11 years ago

Airwave uses the 390-400 Mhz frequency. Also Airwaves it no longer owned by o2 it was sold to a company called 'Guardian Digital Communications' which is owned by the aussie Macquarie Bank. This took place in April 2007.

  • bernibolt
  • over 11 years ago

I wonder how busy the Voda/O2 900 MHz spectrum is carrying calls. GSM has been a great success and I hope some clod-hopping political interference doesn't leave us with busy signals.

  • herdwick
  • over 11 years ago

What I've always loved about O2 is the EDGE coverage, 3G on 3 always instantly died upon entering solid buildings.

Problem is if the 2 providers keep the spectrum, then there won't be enough competition to force prices down for LTE.

  • otester
  • over 11 years ago

@veryteknical - they are not mobile phones. They are Airwave radios using Push to Talk and it's based on the Tetra system. It operates on a different spectrum (deliberately to be totally separate from any overload on the GSM frequencies during a major 'event').

  • nmg196
  • over 11 years ago

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