Work to clear the 800MHz of all TV transmissions to make way for 4G services will be completed on Wednesday, five months earlier than planned for the four-year programme.
But so far no 4G services are live in this frequency, despite auctions for its use closing in February.
The spectrum was historically always used for delivering analogue TV signals across the UK, but over the last four years this has been moved to the 700MHz band. This was done in order for mobile operators to bid for the 800MHz spectrum to use for superfast broadband services.
Ofcom has confirmed that the process is now as good as complete, with 600 transmitters across the country modified to free the spectrum up for mobile use. The final ‘retune’ will take place on Wednesday by engineers in the north of Scotland.
Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, said the end of the work marked a clear next stage in the UK’s mobile development.
“This week we are clearing the path for 4G mobile broadband, allowing mobile companies to provide coverage across the UK,” he said. “4G services will reach 98 percent of the UK population indoors – and even more when outdoors – which will provide a significant boost for rural businesses and consumers.”
However, although the progress is good news for the UK, so far no mobile operator has actually launched any 4G services in the spectrum, despite the auctions being completed back in February. EE, O2 and Vodafone have the rights to use spectrum in the range, but none of the firms have yet launched services in this band.
Vodafone paid the most at £790m to secure blocks at both 800MHz and 2.6GHz, while EE paid £588m for blocks in both bands as well. O2 paid £550m for holdings in the "coverage obligation lot", meaning it must ensure it covers 98 percent of the population with its holding in the 800MHz band.
Both O2 and Vodafone are expecting to launch services towards the end of summer when the next iPhone launches, in order to tie their launch to the new network speeds.
Business are also benefiting from the networks, as reported in the current edition of the free V3 Tablet App, and a story last week from Berkshire NHS Trust about how its mobile workforce is using 4G MiFi devices to improve patient care.
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