back to article Ofcom moots the 900MHz boot for O2 and Vodafone

UK regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation on the future of the 900MHz band, currently allocated to Vodafone and O2 for their 2G services, and has suggested that a technology-neutral auction might be in order for 2009. 900MHz is a good frequency for building penetration and decent range, and is used in rural areas where the …


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  1. Jasmine Strong

    Phenomenally bad idea

    Anyone who thinks this would be a good idea should look at the state of technology available in the US cellphone market. They've had technology-neutral licenses there for years, and look how well they're doing. Complete disaster.

  2. Dazed and Confused

    the price of peace

    "Ultimately Ofcom would like to see all radio frequencies auctioned off to the highest bidder, who would then be able to deploy whatever technology they like or sell the spectrum on in chunks to interested third parties."

    If they did this locally rather than nationally then nimbys could buy all the rights in there area and not have to put up with other peoples annoying ring tones anymore. And just think how much you could save in tin foil hats.

  3. Adam Azarchs

    Re: the price of peace

    Yes, nimbys with billions of dollars to outbid the telcos. If there's people like that out there, willing and able to get rid of those annoying devices in their area, good for them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom's auctions...

    How succesful have Ofcom's auctions been?

    The ones I can remember are 3G (clearly ridiculous price paid, the operators will be paying the price for years) and fixed wireless broadband access (what's that, you may say, and why not, because Now! Broadband, or PCC, or whatever they're called this week, may have paid for the FWA licences but they're not exactly delivering much of a regional never mind national service).

    Any I've forgotten?

    Any reason to expect a 900MHz one to do any better?

  5. Nick Leverton

    Let's have another spectrum auction ?

    That must mean the Government is having trouble balancing its budgets again ...

  6. Paul Allen

    Re:Phenomenally bad idea


    I'm amused that you think mobile service in the US is a complete disaster.

    It was the non-GSM camp that pushed GSM to use essentially the same

    technology - cdma based. cdma subscribers have had faster data rates

    sooner than Europe, and in 1/4 the spectrum. Due to our country's huge size

    it takes all carriers, GSM and non, time to get coverage to the point it should be.

    Now it's the US GSM carriers who are lagging behind.

    Our voice and data rates are much cheaper than you lot are charged.

    Since our regulators did not mandate that spectrum be dedicated to a

    single technology, we already have high speed data using the same

    spectrum that our 2G voice used, co-existing peacefully. Now the EU and Ofcom

    have seen the wisdom of this.

    So, contrary to being a disaster, I think we've gained the advantage and

    boosted you lot to have higher speed data faster than your complacent

    carriers would otherwise have provided had there been no competition!

  7. Julian

    Less Chance Of Making Calls on O2 & Vodafone!

    There is a problem here for O2 and Vodafone Customers. They will loose half their network capacity. This means you will have less chance of being able to successfully make a phone call. You will have to get used to those annoying network busy tones and you will have more difficulty sending text messages too. Nice one Ofcom! Bit unfair since O2 and Vodafone wont be able to bid to get their capacity back and are leaving T-Mobile and Oranges alone.

    Expect a legal battle over this one all right!

  8. John Priestley

    Its amazing

    that the government can sell something which they do not own.

    They can't sue another country for "using" their frequencies.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Our voice and data rates are much cheaper than you lot are charged."

    If you're comparing UK voice and data rates with their US equivalents, surely you should also include handset prices, which (aiui) are much cheaper in the UK (when bought operator-locked) because the operators in the UK have mostly been operating "confusion pricing" (or "buy now pay later") where the price of a handset is hugely dependent on the associated contract revenue/profit in the next year or two. Just look at UK prices for "SIM free" phones vs the same phone with a contract.

    Also, do US mobile folks still pay for calls *to* their mobiles (which have numbers that look like landline numbers)?

    In other words, the UK/US price difference is little to do with different technologies, and a lot to do with different business practices.

  10. Peter Hughes

    Fantastic news

    For the other carriers. O2 and voda are either going to have to switch to 1800meg and have massive gaps in their cells or stay at 900meg and lose bandwidth. Fantastic news. Well done ofcom. How about doing something useful like fixing KComs captive market?

  11. David Beck

    US vs UK market

    I get part of what Paul A says, the US is a big place and really needs different tech for different terrain but looks to me like the telcos rule the roost, either through a geographic carve up or, in the CDMA case, a stifled handset market.

    In the UK the carriers are plentiful and national, if you don't like the plan, change carrier. You can take your number and your handset with you. There's little reason to use the same carrier for PC data and handset voice/data, I'm using T-Mobile for handset and 3 for PC and my handset plan is the same cost as the US T-Mobile data only (Sidekick) so I'm not sure why PA thinks the US is cheaper (maybe it is for business plans). I'm on the new 3 data plan 3gb/month for 15GBP(30USD) is this expensive by US standards?

    Finally, the UK infrastructure is moving slowly because the carriers were stupid enough to buy into the 3G auction and are now trying to deploy at zero costs since all the money went on the licence. A rough calc at the time said that one licence purchaser would have to get 30GBP/year out of every adult in the UK (not just their customers) just to service the debt.

  12. Eyeball

    Stealth tax

    The money paid by operators for the spectrum doesn't come magically out of thin air - it comes from customers, i.e. us.

    The existing free licence, on the proviso that something useful is done with it, sounds much better to me.

  13. Paul Rhodes


    Surely some confusion here people - this is something that Vodafone and O2 have been asking for - the ability to re-farm their 2G spectrum onto 3G adding 3G capacity without purchasing additional capacity.

    Admittedly they have been lobbying to lose less spectrum, and to receive some recompense for the efforts in clearing out the spectrum (£0.3Billion) and for the loss of the spectrum that they currently own.

    Vodafone currently use ~20MHz of GSM spectrum for ~80% customers, and 10 of their 15MHz of 3G for the remianing 20% or so of their customers including mobile broadband. By 2009 these ratios will have reversed, with only around 20% of their customers using the 2G network, so they can afford in broad terms to lose the spectrum.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a good thing!

    Vodafone and O2 already have allocated frequencies in the 1800MHz spectrum - losing a bit of 900MHz won't do them much harm.

    They're banking on being able to re-sell it as 3G - which needs much lower power and propagates much better than the 2100MHz on which they're currently struggling to provide a 3G service.

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