The UK’s four mobile operators have formed a jointly-controlled company that will be responsible for ensuring the smooth rollout of 4G/LTE services in the 800MHz band next spring.
Everything Everywhere, Telefonica’s O2, Vodafone and Three have formed Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited to ensure 4G services in the 800MHz spectrum band freed up by the Digital Switchover won’t affect the quality of signal received by users of the Freeview digital TV service.
The company will be funded by the successful bidders in the upcoming 4G auction, with provisions in place for another company to become a shareholder if they secure spectrum.
The step is touted by UK regulator Ofcom and the government as a step that will speed-up the delivery of 4G services to consumers. The operators reached a broad agreement with Culture Secretary Maria Miller on the steps needed to create a competitive 4G market on 2 October.
“I am pleased that the mobile operators will be working together to ensure that no viewers lose their television services when 4G is rolled out, and congratulate them on setting up the assistance scheme so quickly,” Miller said.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards added that the creation of Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited ahead of schedule “represents yet another step towards bringing consumers early access to the next generation of mobile broadband services”.
“It represents a real milestone and I will continue to work with all of the mobile operators and other stakeholders to get plans in place for the rapid launch of 4G services on the spectrum to be auctioned next year,” said interim chairman of Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited, Andrew Pinder.
The 4G auction will also include spectrum bands (2.6GHz) that are not in such close proximity to the Freeview spectrum, meaning they have less potential to interfere with broadcasting and won’t require similar measures.
The news comes before Everything Everywhere launches the UK’s first 4G/LTE service on the 1.8GHz spectrum band on 30 October. The market leader was allowed by Ofcom to refarm spectrum it already held to provide the service.
Ofcom has said it will ensure all operators are in a position to launch LTE services from spring 2013, five months earlier than originally planned. That move is seen as an attempt to appease Vodafone and O2 after they complained about Everything Everywhere being allowed to launch 4G services ahead of its rivals.