The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced that it has approved an application made by Everything Everywhere (EE) in which the latter sought permission to refarm its existing spectrum in the 1800MHz band in order to offer Long Term Evolution-based (LTE-based) service. In revealing its acceptance of the application, Ofcom noted that following a consultation on the operator’s request it had concluded that varying EE’s existing 1800MHz concession would ‘deliver significant benefits to consumers’, while also noting that it saw ‘no material risk that those benefits will be outweighed by a distortion of competition’. In reaching its decision on the matter Ofcom also added that it had taken into account the forthcoming release of additional spectrum in both the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, with the auction process for such frequencies expected to begin later this year. In parallel with its decision, Ofcom has confirmed that it has now issued varied licences to EE which authorise the operator to inaugurate LTE services from 11 September 2012.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in March 2012 EE declared it was ready to launch 4G services in the UK before the end of the year, providing Ofcom permitted it to refarm 2G spectrum. Just a few days later, Ofcom revealed its provisional conclusions to the cellco’s January 2012 frequency refarming request, in which it determined that allowing EE to utilise the 1800MHz band for 4G services would be ‘likely to bring material benefits to consumers, including faster mobile broadband speeds and – depending on how Everything Everywhere uses the spectrum – potentially wider mobile broadband coverage in rural areas.’ As such, Ofcom confirmed that it would be prepared to allow the use of the spectrum for fourth-generation services, subject to a consultation on the matter. Later that same month however Ofcom announced an extension to the consultation period regarding EE’s application, pushing back the deadline for submissions from 17 April 2012 to 8 May 2012. In revealing the decision, Ofcom noted that it had opted to ‘extend this period following requests from stakeholders for more time to respond’.