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Operators face second 3G auction

21 сентября 2007

Ofcom is proposing to take some of the radio spectrum away from mobile operators Vodafone and O2, and sell it to competitors in a new 3G licence auction. The communications industry regulator wants the operators to give up some of the spectrum they use for 2G services – such as voice calls, text messaging and low-speed internet access – and would sell this to competitors through an auction, which could be held as early as 2009.

Ofcom would lift the restrictions on use of the old 2G spectrum, allowing companies to deploy it for new functions, such as high-speed internet browsing or downloading music and videos over the air.
The regulator is hoping the move will increase competition and the availability of high-speed mobile services in rural areas.
Five mobile operators paid a combined £22.5bn at auction for 3G licences in 2000 at the height of the dotcom boom. However, customers have been slow to start using the services and some parts of the country are still not covered.
Ofcom said the spectrum changes could result in a £6bn benefit for the UK.
Vodafone and O2, part of Spain’s Telefonica, would be asked to give up part of their 900 megahertz spectrum, which they were allocated for free in 1985.
The 900 megahertz band is the most efficient for building a mobile network, especially in rural areas. Signals on this frequency travel further, and Ofcom estimates that operators using 900 megahertz spectrum to build a nationwide 3G network would need 10,000 fewer base stations.
Losing part of this prime spectrum will be a blow to Vodafone and O2. The two companies said they were considering the proposals and would respond to Ofcom by the end of November.
However, the proposal to lift restrictions on 2G spectrum use were generally welcomed by all mobile operators, who have been lobbying for this for the last two years.
The proposal is part of a consultation Ofcom has launched ahead of a European Commission directive expected by the end of this year which would liberalise spectrum use across Europe.

Источник: Financial Times

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