Ed Richards, the head of UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, has revealed details of the country’s proposed timetable for the introduction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) services, ISPreview reports. According to Mr Richards, the watchdog does not expect to complete the process of releasing LTE-suitable spectrum until the end of 2013, raising the prospect that commercial 4G services would be not be inaugurated until 2014 at the earliest. Parliament is currently considering draft legislation put forward by Ofcom related to the timeframes for the release of ‘digital dividend’ spectrum in the 800MHz band.
According to the regulator’s proposals, it plans to publish a consultation on its assessment of likely future mobile competition and detailed proposals for the combined auction of 800MHz/2600MHz frequencies, including details of any measures it could take to ensure effective competition, by the end of February 2011. With that consultation then due to end in May 2011 Ofcom will issue a statement on future completion and details of the auction, along with draft auction regulations, in ‘early autumn’ 2011, with final auction terms due before the end of that year. Subsequently, applications from prospective bidders, eligibility checks and bidding will take place in 1Q 2012, with the auction result and issuing of licences to take place by the end-2Q 2012. LTE-suitable spectrum meanwhile will be available from the beginning of 2013, with Ofcom expecting to complete the release process by the end of the year.
A resolution to matters regarding spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands looks likely to come about more swiftly meanwhile; as previously reported by CommsUpdate, last month Ofcom ruled that it did not believe the refarming of spectrum in the bands in question would impact competition, reversing its previous stance. ‘Provided that this legislation passes successfully, we will be able to move rapidly to liberalise the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum, allowing it to be used to deliver 3G services, making it tradable, and also extend the duration of the 3G licences with associated enhanced coverage obligations,’ the Ofcom head noted. The government it is understood now aims to have matters relating to spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands all resolved by the end of 2011.