UK operators given OK to double 3G power

The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has succumbed to pressure from the mobile operator community and agreed that the in-band power of 3G base stations can be doubled.

This move, which increases the output by three dBm (decibel power to one milliwatt) is a doubling of the power levels to 65 dBm, and follows calls by the UK operators to be allowed to boost cell site power to meet the growing demand for mobile internet coverage and data transfer.

Terry Nelson, principal analyst at Analysys Mason, said that the power increase would offer a number of benefits. "This will have a significant impact for people living in areas with poor to non-existent 3G coverage, and even play a part in closing the digital divide," he said.

"It will also help operators increase capacity as they can send the data in bursts of information that will free up other parts of the spectrum and help increase the quality of service for customers."

The UK operators lobbied Ofcom for an increase in power stating that there were no similar limits on operators in European countries such as Germany, France and Sweden. They also claimed that this move would lead to fewer 3G cell sites and a lowering in the environmental impact of base stations.

Interestingly, Ofcom initially offered an even higher limit of 68 dBm to help with further base station developments but this was not supported by all operators and the compromise of 65 dBm was agreed.

Commenting on the increase in base station power and health worries, Ofcom said that the rise would still keep cell sites well within previously agreed guidelines.

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