O2 UK boosts network capacity 50% with new 3G 900MHz deployment

O2 UK claimed that being able to provide 3G services using the 900MHz band will boost its network capacity by around 50 per cent, along with providing subscribers with 30 per cent faster downloads and better coverage.

The company said that, following permission from the telecoms regulator Ofcom to refarm its 900MHz licence for 3G use, it has already deployed the technology in three UK cities, with London now being the latest to be added.

Nigel Purdy, CTO of O2 UK, said, according to Mobile Today: "This 3G900 [as O2 calls the band] switch-on is the latest in a series of network enhancements for O2, and is a first for the UK and Telefónica. We've acted quickly to bring the benefits of 3G over the 900MHz spectrum to our customers and we're thrilled with the results. Quite simply, on O2's network, more customers can use more data, and experience it quicker."

According to customer trials conducted by O2, 3G 900MHz compatible devices--such as Apple's iPhone 4--were, on average, able to download data 30 per cent faster. The company said in January of this year that it will start to transfer iPhone and dongle users across to the 900MHz spectrum, together with other 3G handsets that were compatible with the frequency.

This move by O2 to refarm its former 2G-only spectrum could again trigger protest from Everything Everywhere and 3UK, given that neither operator has access to the 900MHz band. Everything Everywhere dropped its earlier objections to refarming last November, but has now joined forces with 3UK to lobby the regulator on controlling the amount of LTE spectrum a single operator can own in the forthcoming auctions.

This action by O2 provoked Vodafone UK late last week to indicate that it was also considering the use of its 900MHz band for 3G.

Speaking to V3, a Vodafone spokesperson refused to confirm any specific schedule, but admitted that the company is working towards making this happen, admitting that 3G operating at 900MHz would likely provide significant benefits to consumers. "These should include improved service in rural areas and increased in-building coverage. Exact details of the timing of any refarming by Vodafone of its spectrum in the UK, however, are commercially sensitive."

For more:
- see this CNet UK article
- see this Mobile Today article
- see this Telecompaper article
- see this Cellular News article
- see this V3 article

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