UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has cleared 800 MHz spectrum for LTE deployment five months ahead of schedule. The spectrum was part of an auction in February that raised a total of £2.34 billion (€2.68 billion), and the big winners of the spectrum were Vodafone, 3 UK and Telefónica's O2 UK.
The regulator, which embarked on this project four years ago, said that the spectrum will allow operators to provide LTE coverage to approximately 98 per cent of the UK population indoors and even more outdoor coverage.
Vodafone UK CEO Guy Laurence has said that the operator will deploy LTE later this summer. O2 UK is also planning a summer launch, while 3 UK is planning to debut LTE around year-end.
EE, the largest UK operator, has been offering LTE on refarmed 1800 MHz airwave since last October. EE said as part of its second-quarter results that it currently has 687,000 LTE subscribers and is on track to cross 1 million by the end of the year. The operator paid £588.8 million to buy 800 MHz spectrum and 2.6 GHz to extend coverage countrywide.
Analysts expect EE's competitors to put pricing pressure on the company and engage in fierce marketing battles once they launch LTE service.
Ofcom recently said it will allow spectrum currently reserved for 2G services to be used for LTE services. However, it is unlikely that operators will be able to exploit their 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz bands any time soon because of the long refarming process that will be required to clear the frequency bands of their existing uses.
EE: We're on track to hit 1M LTE users in 2013
Ofcom approves spectrum refarming for LTE services
3 UK mulls pooling 800 MHz spectrum with EE, may speed up LTE launch
Report: UK operators will need to trade LTE spectrum to set mobile strategies
Analysts: UK operators underpaid for LTE spectrum, for a variety of reasons
UK LTE spectrum auction draws £2.34B, below government expectations