Last week Orange claimed it will not be able to deliver in line with the Government’s Digital Britain plan unless Vodafone and O2 gives up some of the 900MHz spectrum they occupy.
According to Steve Blythe, Orange UK’s Head of Spectrum Strategy the Orange 3G rollout plan depends upon it sharing the 900MHz band, and that without this it will be unable to provide UK residents with minimum mobile broadband speeds of 2Mbps by 2012. Mr Blythe pointed to the fact that Vodafone and O2 will be able to expand their networks into rural areas at a lower cost and that Orange will not be able to do so as the frequency will not be able to travel to a broad enough area.
Orange UK’s Vice President of Strategy Mr. Nicolas Ott asked that the Government be very clear about its regulatory framework with regards the distribution of spectrum.
The 800MHz spectrum band becomes available in 2013 and Orange eagerly await its release by Ofcom, following the analogue television switch-off, if is to meet the Government imposed deadline of 2012.
900MHz could be available this year, but the analogue to be freed up will not be ready until 2013, which represents a four-year difference in terms of what Vodafone and O2 could execute with their 900MHz spectrum. This would adversely affect Orange’s business.
Orange is being supported by T-Mobile and 3 who are also putting pressure on the regulator Ofcom to free up the 900MHz bandwidth.
Meetings have been held with Digital Britain consultant and former Ofcom executive Kip Meek with the aim of finding a satisfactory solution to the planned redistribution of UK mobile spectrum. Ofcom has indicated that if a resolution cannot be found they will intervene. However, it is felt in some quarters that the problem is partly as a result of Ofcom’s poor proposals, and that in their current form they are of little practical use and that it may well fall to the Government to sort out.
The final Digital Britain report is scheduled for June.