Ofcom mulling frequency cap for mobile operators

13 May 2009

Reuters is reporting that British mobile network operators could face caps on the spectrum that they own, following proposals by the Independent Spectrum Broker (ISB). The proposals comes as the country’s telecom regulator, Ofcom, considers how to break the deadlock over frequencies which it believes will be needed to help fulfil the government’s universal broadband target. Cellcos O2 and Vodafone have both opposed plans by the regulator to take spectrum in the 900MHz away from them, in order to be auctioned between the three other operators; Orange, T-Mobile and Hutchison 3G UK. The plan put forward by the ISB would allow operators to keep their existing spectrum allocation, but would force them to sell if they wished to acquire other frequencies. Ofcom has also suggested it may lift regulatory restrictions on the use of spectrum in order to allow 3G services, including internet access, to be offered over older 2G networks. The regulator has argued that it is cheaper to offer 3G services using the 900MHz band in rural areas.

Additionally, it is understood that holders of 800MHz spectrum could also be given coverage and access obligations to ensure there is nationwide coverage for next generation mobile services. The ISB also recommended that auctions for 2.6GHz spectrum should be held at the same time as the 800MHz auction, in mid-2010.