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Qualcomm sells L-Band mobile spectrum to Three and Vodafone

Mobile components supplier Qualcomm sells its UK L-Band spectrum to network operators Vodafone and Hutchison 3G for an undisclosed sum

Smartphone chipset specialist Qualcomm is to dispose entirety of its UK-based L-Band spectrum – between 1452 and 1492 MHz – to mobile network operators (MNOs) Vodafone and Hutchison 3G (H3G), which runs Three.

Subject to approval from UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, Vodafone will take control of 20 MHz of the available spectrum, while H3G will take over the remaining 20 MHz.

The financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed, although Bloomberg suggested the MNOs may have paid out something in the region of £200m between them.

L-Band is defined as the 1 to 2 GHz range of the radio spectrum and has a number of uses, including GPS, aircraft transponders, ham radio, digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio and radio astronomy.

However, in the European Union, the 1452-1492 MHz bands were specifically harmonised for mobile network supplemental downlink (SDL) in May 2015.

This means the spectrum can be used to provide additional bandwidth for downlinks between base stations and mobile devices and will enable Vodafone and H3G to meet demand for mobile data on their networks.

SDL should be particularly useful for running download-heavy services, such as video-on-demand, enabling services such as the BBC iPlayer or YouTube to be delivered seamlessly to smartphone devices over a cellular data connection.

It will also improve downlink user experience through aggregation with licensed frequency-division duplexing (FDD) spectrum.

Qualcomm acquired its L-Band spectrum seven years ago as a testbed for advanced wireless services. According to Bloomberg, if Ofcom approves the deals, the spectrum should be available for use in 2016.

Vodafone and H3G are investing heavily in expanding their networks, with Vodafone recently announcing it had upgraded 71,000 sites to high-capacity backhaul through its multi-billion pound Project Spring upgrade.

H3G, meanwhile, will add more low-frequency 800 MHz spectrum to improve rural and indoor coverage on the Three network later in 2015, and is also moving ahead with plans to introduce 4G voice calling, or VoLTE.

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