Looking to steal a march on the UK’s mobile network operators, Hong Kong-based PCCW’s local unit UK Broadband is understood to have kick-started preparations for the rollout of commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in 2012. According to the Financial Times, which cites comments from UK Broadband chief executive Nicholas James, in order to achieve its aim the company will first need to finalise agreements with handset manufacturers and other vendors for equipment compatible with the 4G technology that can operate on frequencies that it already owns. ‘It is the company’s intention to launch a 4G service. We are currently working with our vendors to finalise the equipment offering on our spectrum. And we are finalising our network planning and our business plan,’ Mr James noted.
The report suggests that UK Broadband is working on a wholesale business model under which it would enable companies that do not own their own infrastructure to provide mobile services over the mooted LTE network, with the operator thought to have already begun sounding out likely interested parties such as Virgin Media. Further, it is widely expected that UK Broadband’s LTE network will initially be deployed in those urban areas where demand for high speed mobile broadband services is likely to be greater.
The operator currently holds a significant amount of spectrum in the 3.5GHz and 3.6GHz bands which it has suggested would be suitable for an LTE deployment, with a statement from UK Broadband to regulator Ofcom last month reportedly noting: ‘Our recent work with … vendors indicates that LTE equipment is available imminently for our spectrum bands … We are therefore investing in and intend to commence the construction of a 4G LTE network in the UK in the second half of this year.’ As noted in TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service, UK Broadband is a wireless network operator that owns the only national 3.5GHz WiMAX-capable spectrum licence in the UK, having won 13 of the 15 available regional fixed wireless concessions in June 2003, paying a total of GBP6.295 million (USD10.4 million) for 2×20MHz of spectrum before going on to acquire the other two successful bidders, Public Hub and Red Spectrum, which held one regional licence each, giving it a nationwide footprint. In June 2007 the regulator Ofcom announced that it would amend UK Broadband’s concession to allow it to offer mobile as well as fixed wireless broadband services, and three years later, in June 2010 the operator purchased additional fixed WiMAX broadband wireless radio spectrum from the Daisy Group for a cash price of GBP12.5 million.