UK regulator Ofcom has confirmed that all of the country’s mobile operators should be in a position to launch LTE services from spring 2013, five months earlier than previously planned.
In a statement yesterday, the regulator noted: “Following discussions with TV broadcasters, Digital UK and the transmission company Arqiva, Ofcom has secured the earlier release of frequencies that were previously used for digital-terrestrial broadcasting. This spectrum will now be cleared and ready for 4G mobile services across much of the UK five months earlier than previously planned, from spring 2013. This has only become possible in the past few months as a result of the significant progress that has been made to date with the digital switchover and the clearance programme itself, which has been running ahead of schedule.”
Specifically, Ofcom said that the clearance date for TV transmitters in Oxford and Waltham – which would otherwise prevent deployment of 4G mobile services to around 9 million people in cities including London, Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield – will be brought forward by five months to May 2013. Similarly, the clearance date for transmitters which impact around 1 million people in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh will be brought forward by more than three months to April 2013.
This progress comes in the same week that Ofcom has held “crunch meetings” with UK operators. The meetings appear to have been an attempt to appease Vodafone and O2, which have been angered by Ofcom’s controversial decision to allow market-leader Everything Everywhere (EE) to refarm its 1800MHz spectrum for early LTE services – and therefore launch 4G ahead of rivals. Last month EE launched a new 4G brand and pledged to launch LTE services in 16 UK cities by Christmas.
Auctions in the ‘digital dividend’ 800/2600MHz bands suitable for 4G are expected to start in December, with official bidding taking place early in 2013.