Future high-speed phone network spectrum provided by UK mobile operators can be traded in the future, as regulator Ofcom gives it the go-ahead.
The amount of bandwidth mobiles have available has increasingly become a hot topic between phone networks and Ofcom, as smartphones chomp into increasing amounts of 3G data.
The trading between networks will be followed by a spectrum auction- setting the scene for the high-speed likes of 4G- a super-fast mobile data network already available in the US and other countries. The decision of Ofcom has brought criticism from several phone networks.
“Spectrum trading” means phone networks can sell off what they own in certain frequencies; 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz.
According to the BBC, the 900MHz region is exclusively owned by only O2 and Vodafone, the only operators existing when the frequency was available. Elsewhere around the world, these older spectrums were shared around before offering the new 4G spectrums, but this hasn’t happened yet in the UK.
Ofcom planned to share the spectrum, but was met with legal action from O2 and Vodafone. Plans were cancelled following the formation of Everything Everywhere, from T-Mobile and Orange, set to benefit the most from spectrum trading.
Out of the Big Five, Three was the least happy with the result. A spokesperson told Recombu that: “Spectrum is the lifeblood of smartphones and the mobile internet and for those with surplus holdings it is also a strategic asset, so voluntary trading is the exception. This move simply allows those who have been gifted access to public spectrum to profit from it, with no benefit for UK taxpayers.
“Ofcom’s ambition to deliver faster and more capable services to consumers is best served by a truly competitive allocation of this public asset.”
Ofcom has also said it will hold aside some of the 4G spectrum for newer mobile networks like Three.