UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom said that “4G” mobile networks (based on LTE technology) will deliver “more than 200 percent of the capacity of existing 3G technologies using the same amount of spectrum,” following research it conducted to ascertain the likely efficiency benefits. However, it also said that this “will not on its own be sufficient to meet the expected growth in demand for mobile data.” The regulator highlighted that more spectrum will need to be allocated to meet future requirements – it is planning to auction 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies in 2012 in what was described as “the largest ever single auction of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK.” It also noted that mobile networks will need to be “designed intelligently” to ensure the best use of spectrum and, “in particular, the research anticipates a greater use of small cells to meet demand in specific areas.”
The 2012 auction will make available spectrum equivalent to three quarters of that in use in the country today, and 80 percent more than was made available at the 3G auctions which took place in 2000. However, some stakeholders have expressed concerns about the potential process, due to the spectrum allocations already held by operators. For example, existing players Everything Everywhere and 3 UK currently have no spectrum below 1GHz, while O2 UK and Vodafone UK have 900MHz allocations – which are available for “re-farming” to support 3G networks. 3 UK, in particular, has said it could be “squeezed out” of the market if it is unable to secure a suitable allocation. The regulator has said it will put frequency floors in place to ensure the survival of the smaller players.