UK regulator Ofcom has detailed amended 4G license auction terms it hopes will overcome carrier objections to the planned sale.
The regulator is proposing to increase the minimum coverage requirement for 4G networks by 3% by utilizing a recently-announced government fund established to eliminate mobile coverage gaps. Ofcom is also proposing to reserve some 2.6GHz spectrum for local networks run by private firms, hospitals and schools.
“This is a crucial step in preparing for the most significant spectrum release in the UK for many years. The proposals published today will influence the provision of services to consumers for the next decade and beyond,” Ofcom chief Ed Richards notes.
Under the revised terms, operators will need to commit to deploying mobile services to 98% of the country, rather than the 95% coverage originally touted. Ofcom amended the coverage target after the government detailed plans to pump £150 million (€180 million) into boosting mobile coverage in areas with little or no service currently.
However, Ofcom has also detailed a second coverage option – a requirement for one 800MHz operator to offer 4G coverage equal to the country’s current 2G footprint by utilizing infrastructure constructed using the government cash.
The regulator hopes the amendments will overcome objections raised by O2 and Vodafone to its original auction plans. The pair claimed Ofcom proposals for maximum and minimum spectrum allocation caps favored EverythingEverywhere and Three UK – the country’s largest and smallest cellcos – and threatened legal action if the terms were not changed.