#DEAPPG spectrum mobile broadband #digitalbritain #finalthirdfirst #4G #LTE #ofcom

How do you cram a debate on the future of mobile services, data roaming and spectrum into an hour and a half? At last night’s Digital Economy All Party Political Group at Portcullis House in Westminster we made a pretty good job of it with a panel consisting of Hugh Davies, Director of Corporate Affairs for mobile network 3,Brian Williamson of Plum Consulting, Ruy Pinto of Inmarsat and Raj Sivalingham of Intellect.

This debate was hot on the heels of last week’s successful back bench motion by Rory Stewart, MP (Penrith and Cumbria) which called upon Ofcom to specify 98% mobile broadband coverage in the 4G auction in 2012.

3 stated that this is doable with existing base station infrastructure provided they received suitable low frequency spectrum allocation in the auction. O2 and Vodafone have already been reallocated spectrum out of their existing 900 and 1800MHz 3G licenses.

3 considered this to be unfair though it likely reflects the fact that the original successful bidders in the 3G auctions will not have recovered their investments. It is also a surprising example of cutting through the red tape – not something UK plc is renowned for.

For the uninitiated the lower the spectrum the better the reach of the signal. Indoor coverage also improves. This is important in the rural debate because a mast serving a valley will give a better and more penetrating service if it uses 900MHs as opposed to, for example 1,800MHz.

Although mobile broadband could make a contribution towards the government’s objective of 2Megs for all by 2015 I wouldn’t get too excited. Firstly it is still only 2Megs and not the 100Megs fibre that many think is the only sensible proposition for the long term. Secondly if the auction is in 2012 the chances of much of the LTE (4G = Long Term Evolution) network being in place by 2015 are pretty slim. Unless of course the mobile operators concentrate on rural areas first which would appear to be contrary to their normal business practices. Perhaps some government incentives…

Footnote
Amongst the wide range of topics we discussed bandwidth usage. 3 claimed they carry 50% of UK mobile data traffic despite having the smallest bandwidth allocation, said they had seen 2,200% growth in data over the past 2 years and were forecasting a further 50% growth by the end of 2011 (does this represent a slow down?). They considered that they had existing capacity for 8x current usage levels. It would be interesting to contrast and compare with the other operators.

The company’s record monthly usage had recently hit 392GBytes for a single SIM! My norm is more like 1GB. Someone is seriously hammering their connection there. The average usage for a dongle is around 1GB and for a handset half that. Few people in the audience actually knew how much data bandwidth they used.

I seem to have concentrated mostly on input from 3 here but readers shouldn’t underestimate the contribution of all the panellists to the evening (scarce column space, time constraints etc). The DEAPPG events normally happen on Tuesdays and if you are interested in issues around the Digital Economy are definitely worth coming along to. You can check out future events at the DEAPPG website.

Published by Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of trefor.net, writer, poet, philosopherontap.com

Join the Conversation

  1. Trefor Davies

3 Comments

  1. I think its vital that the mobile coverage is extended and improved. There is none to speak of where I live, and travelling around my area it is impossible to get 3g, with only limited 2g on most networks, everyone has to stand outside to use their mobiles.
    It is also crucial to get a feed to rural masts, preferably with fibre to cope with the data.
    It is also mission critical that government don’t think the rural problem is solved with mobile, it won’t be. We also need a reliable affordable fixed line solution. This isn’t possible through copper. BET is a waste of time and money, satellite is ok for a stopgap but isn’t the future. We need fibre, and we need it quickly. Anything else will only patch up and will be to do again in a few years as the phone network is already an obsolete method of delivering internet access.
    I know we can’t afford to fibre up every home, but if we got fibre out to the rural communities and masts then new networks would be built and that would drive investment into urban areas where many notspots exist. Take up would be great, and market forces would do the job once there was competition. Thats a far better way of spending public money than by propping up an obsolete business model. eh?

  2. ” O2 and Vodafone have already been reallocated spectrum out of their existing 900 and 1800MHz 3G licenses. ” – not sure what you’re driving at here Tref, 900/1800 was never licensed for 3G and I wasn’t aware there had been any reallocations.

    O2 / Voda may well be choosing to use some of their existing 900 / 1800 GSM allocations for 3G now the EU has removed the “GSM only” requirement on those bands.

  3. Hmm ok Phil thanks. You are right. It was an expression of concern from 3 that the other operators might be getting an unfair advantage int the LTE stakes by being allowed to reuse this spectrum rather than it being put back in the pot for auction. Of course Vodafone and o2 have already paid once.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.