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Ofcom confirms 4G airwaves cleared ahead of operator auctions

24 Oct 2012
Mobile mast

Ofcom has confirmed that the airwaves for future 4G spectrum are now cleared and ready to be used by mobile operators in 2013.

The spectrum sits in the 800MHz range and was previously used for analogue TV signals for over 70 years before the switchover to digital services.

This process has been managed by network infrastructure firm Arqiva.

The spectrum's use for 4G services should ensure strong in-building coverage for the operators that successfully secure a portion of the frequency, given its past use for TV coverage.

As a result those that win spectrum in this band will also be obliged to ensure coverage to 98 percent of the population, a pointed Ofcom chief Ed Richards was keen to tout.

"The UK's switchover to digital has been a huge success. Not only has is created more TV choice for consumers, it has also freed up vital capacity that will be used to deliver mobile broadband services to 98 percent of cities, towns and villages across the UK," he said.

"Now that switchover is complete, Ofcom is looking forward to delivering the 4G auction as the next step in delivering new higher speed mobile broadband services."

The path to the availability of new 4G networks has been a slow one after Ofcom's attempts to hold auctions for the services were repeatedly delayed due to threats of legal challenges from operators over the conditions around the auctions.

However, after the regulator gave EE the right to run 4G on its existing 2G networks matters were brought to a head in a crunch meeting between operators, government and Ofcom, which resulted in the auctions for the 800Mhz and 2.6GHz spectrums brought forward.

The announcement comes the day after EE announced its pricing for its new 4G services, which start at £30 for SMBs and £36 for consumers, rising to as high as £56, as the firm seeks to capitalise on its first-mover advantage in the market.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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