From Thursday UK mobile network operators will be allowed to offer data services over their 2G networks, giving consumers better indoor and outdoor access to the internet.
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This follows a government instruction to remove restrictions on the holders of 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum that restricted the services they could sell to phone calls and text messages.
The UK was required to liberalise 2G spectrum for 3G use by two European laws, the amended GSM Directive and associated Radio Spectrum Decision.
An Ofcom analysis in February 2009 showed that use of liberalised 1800MHz spectrum for 3G provided no material advantage relative to 2.1GHz spectrum for providing improved mobile broadband services, in terms of speed or coverage.
Ofcom said at the time that liberalising the 1800MHz band for 3G could in principle offer significant extra capacity to T-Mobile and Orange (as they were then), but there was little equipment on sale that allowed them to exploit this. Besides, they had other ways to increase capacity such as acquiring extra spectrum and deploying more base stations.
Ofcom told the government in October 2010 its position was essentially unchanged. In addition, T-Mobile and Orange had agreed to give up 2x15 MHz of their combined 1800MHz spectrum in the UK to allow the merger of their UK operations into Everything Everywhere.
"Our view therefore remains that there is little risk of a material competitive distortion arising as a result of liberalising the 1800MHz spectrum for UMTS in the hands of the current holders, without additional conditions (beyond essential technical requirements), and this is still likely to be the most appropriate option," it told the government.