U.K. gets sixth GSM operator--well, sort of

A new GSM operator is preparing to launch mobile services in the U.K. Claiming to be the country's sixth GSM operator, UK01 is the beneficiary of U.K. regulator Ofcom's recent spectrum auction where it acquired frequencies in the 1800MHz band. Unfortunately UK01's licence only allows it to deploy a low-power network with very limited coverage so users of the service will need to be very close to a base station to make a call. To get its service up and running quickly UK01 has signed a deal with WiFi hotspot operator Spectrum Interactive which will enable UK01's GSM base stations to be installed in the latter's phone kiosks. However, Spectrum Interactive only has a few hundred sites located around the U.K. so coverage will be spotty to say the least. Normal dual mode GSM handsets will be able to access the UK01 network but users will have to manually select UK01 as the company has not, at least yet, signed any roaming agreements with other UK operators. Behind UK01 is a company called Mapesbury Communications Limited which paid £77,000 for its spectrum allocation in the Ofcom auctions, a pittance compared to the billions lashed out by other U.K. operators on their 3G licences. In fact the 1800MHz spectrum allocated to UK01 cannot be used for 3G services as such services are currently confined to the 2.1GHz band. UK01 could introduce data services based on EDGE but to date has made no announcement as to future plans to offer data.

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