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March 2012

Idea Lab: 4G spectrum is the government’s most coveted networking asset

Britain’s networking giants are jostling for position as they await the release of the 4G spectrum auction by Ofcom. But after years of delays and arguments over liberalisation and ownership caps, it stands to be seen whether British operators can enter the 4G arena without the hindrances that have stalled uptake in the US. Once extra spectrum for 4G is available, mobile providers will be able to offer faster access to wireless services, easing congestion in existing networks and serving new rural customers at about the rate of today’s ADSL home broadband speeds. Operators are desperate for this new spectrum since currently mobile telephony occupies only 4% of the spectrum suitable for radio transmissions. The proposed auction of 4G-supporting frequencies in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands, now expected to start in Q2 2012, will open an extra 250 MHz to mobile telephony. This will add almost 75% more capacity to the networks, which is 80% more space than was available in the 3G auction in 2000 that netted the Government £22.5bn. ...

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