Ofcom set to open airwaves for more 4G services

Ofcom set to open airwaves for more 4G services

Ofcom is considering allowing mobile network operators permission to run 4G services over the airwaves they currently use for existing mobile services.

Both Vodafone and 3 have asked to run 4G over their existing spectrum and the telecoms regulator has launched a public consultation exercise on the proposal.

The process is expected to last until the end of March, but should it be successful it would mean that the two operators will be able to launch their new networks and super-fast broadband in the very near future.

Both operators want to pipe futuristic 4G services over parts of the radio spectrum that, on their networks, are reserved for earlier generations of mobile technology.

The consultation will run alongside the current 4G auction, which 3 and Vodafone are both involved in, as they look to buy spectrum that has been dedicated to the widespread launch of 4G in the UK.

Ofcom said in its consultation document that a "liberalisation" of all parts of the radio spectrum used for 2G and 3G services could be used for 4G.

"This will meet a long standing objective to liberalise all mobile licences so that there are no regulatory barriers to the deployment of the latest available mobile technology," it said in a statement.

"The only reason we allowed EE to use its existing spectrum for 4G services was because it made an application to us to do this. This decision was taken after conducting a thorough assessment of how competition might be affected."

Matthew Howett, an analyst at market research firm Ovum, said that the consultation into the proposals put forward by Vodafone and Three is welcome, but he questioned if the move would actually speed up the launch of wider 4G coverage in the UK.

Most would be unlikely to use the spectrum they already own for those services in the "short term", he said.

"They would first need to be cleared of their existing use through a process of refarming that would probably take years rather than months. So the spectrum that is currently being auctioned by Ofcom will most likely be used for Vodafone, O2 and 3's initial deployment of 4G services."