Independent spectrum broker Kip Meek (pictured) has recommended that the UK’s five mobile networks be subject to spectrum caps as part of his report for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) released today, ahead of the final Digital Britain report scheduled for release next month.
Meek was appointed by Communications Minister Lord Stephen Carter in January to aid in resolving the issue of spectrum reallocation ahead of the final Digital Britain report to be released in June.
Meek has recommended that, as Vodafone and O2 each already have access to 900MHz spectrum, they would be able to obtain 800MHz – to be released in 2012 upon the switchover from analogue to digital television – only if they were to give up an equal amount of 900MHz within a specified period. However, they would face few restrictions on bidding for the 2.6GHz spectrum that has been deemed suitable for WiMAX services before the end of 2009.
Orange and T-Mobile, which have access to 1800MHz spectrum, would be able to bid freely for 800MHz. But if they were successful in gaining two 10MHz blocks of either 800MHz or 900MHz, they would only be able to bid for an additional two 10MHz blocks of 2.6GHz, so as to remain within the spectrum cap.
If they wanted access to a greater amount of 2.6GHz, they would have to relinquish 1800MHz or 2.1GHz.
3 and any potential new market entrants would be able to bid freely for 800MHz, or any 900MHz that Vodafone or O2 choose to give up; as well as 2.6GHz, or any 1800MHz that any other operators choose to give up) up to the maximum allowable per network to be determined in the auction.
However each of the licences would carry greater coverage obligations, of perhaps 99 per cent of the population.
Meek also stated that the exact form of the spectrum caps applied to the combined 2.6GHz and 800MHz auctions may require additional consideration.
He said his proposals were also based on the continued presence of five independent networks operating in the UK market. If any form of consolidation were to take place before any spectrum distribution occurred, then some elements of the proposals could change.
Meek said the proposals could be developed and finalised by BERR, leading to a Government direction to Ofcom.
“Although the mobile industry has had to cope with considerable uncertainty over issues associated with spectrum allocation over the past four years, this further effort to finalise proposals is worthwhile, as the prize is substantial,” said Meek.
“It is within the UK’s grasp to achieve within five years mobile broadband at around 4Mbps across the UK and more than 50 Mbps in many urban areas. This would put the UK at the forefront of commercially-deployed mobile technology around the world, delivering economic and social benefits that far outweigh the costs.”
Lord Carter commented: “The Independent Spectrum Broker has concluded that there is a need to find a new comprehensive approach to enable the rollout of next generation mobile Services, which offer enormous benefits for the UK economy.
“This report addresses complex and challenging issues and demands careful consideration and we will be setting out our response in the final Digital Britain report next month.”
For the industry’s reaction to the proposals, see Mobile News, March 18.