The Government proposed “Digital Britain” plan declares that high-speed mobile broadband should be available to 99% of the UK population, at a speed of 4Mbps. Ofcom has been pondering how to best achieve this, and the Independent Spectrum Broker has made a very interesing setof proposals to Ofcom – a very long proposal, which you can download here. Or you could read our super-handy summary of the most important points!
- Part of the broadcast spectrum should be freed up by the switching off of analogue television by 2012.
- That part of the spectrum could then be auctioned off to mobile operators, but must be used to increase mobile broadband coverage from 80% (as it is now) to 99% of the population.
- The UK mobile operators would have their 3G licenses extended indefinitely, but the cost would be that they have to ensure that 19% increase of Britains mobile broadband coverage.
- The operators would also have a cap place on the amount of the mobile spectrum they can own, meaning that O2 and Vodafone would have to sell some of their existing spectrum if they wished to buy any of the analogue television spectrum
- Ofcom may ease regulations to allow 3G services to be offered over old 2G networks.
From the proposal:
Kip Meek, Lord Carter’s independent spectrum broker, said “by expediting the introduction of, and investment in, nationwide next generation mobile services, it is within the UK’s grasp to achieve within five years mobile broadband at around 4Mbps across the UK as a whole and more than 50 megabits per second in many urban areas. This would put the UK at the forefront of commercially-deployed mobile technology around the world, delivering economic and social benefits that far outweigh the costs.”
What we think?
There’s already a lot of controversy surrounding these proposals. O2 and Vodafone are enraged by the idea of any kind of cap, and digital TV providers are screaming that they were promised the use of freed analogue spectrum. However, there is a little something for everyone in this plan*. Mobile operators have wanted to broadcast 3G services over 2G for a long time now. Added to that is their guarantee of extended 3G licenses. It certainly works out for consumers, who could access vastly improved mobile Internet all over the country.
However, this is still just a proposal. And, considering how sweeping some of the changes suggested are, I’d be surprised if it got much past the proposal stage.
* – well, except the digital TV guys… they get screwed.