Ofcom Considers Allowing O2 And Vodafone Use Existing Licenses For 5G


By Juan Pedro Tomás

UK telecommunications services regulator Ofcom has proposed an update of some licenses held by mobile operators Vodafone and O2 (Telefonica) with the aim of enabling the deployment of 5G using those frequencies.

“In response to requests from Vodafone and Telefónica, we are proposing to make changes to some licenses they hold. The changes would allow them to deploy new technologies, including 5G, and deliver the next generation of connectivity and services to their users,” Ofcom said in a statement.

The changes proposed by the regulator include updating the technical conditions of licenses held by Vodafone in the 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands. The proposed variations would amend the licenses with updated parameters that reflect the latest technologies. Ofcom is also proposing to remove technology restrictions in the licenses to make them technology-neutral.

“Our policy goal is to remove the regulatory barriers that prevent the deployment of the latest available technology, where appropriate. In considering Vodafone’s and Telefónica’s requests, we have therefore aimed to ensure that their licenses are as technology neutral as possible and contain provisions to allow the networks to deploy 5G whilst ensuring other users are protected from undue interference,” the agency said.

Ofcom is also proposing to remove a restriction placed on Telefónica’s unpaired spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band. “Telefónica has requested that we remove a restriction on the 5 MHz block within its unpaired spectrum allocation adjacent to Vodafone’s unpaired allocation. Vodafone has contacted us to confirm its agreement with the request,” the agency said. “This would allow Telefónica to use an unrestricted 20 MHz of spectrum compared with the 15 MHz currently available. To make this arrangement work, the two licensees need to synchronize transmissions and both of their licenses will need to be varied.”

“We have already noted that the deployment of 5G will enable MNOs to provide greater capacity and faster speeds across the UK mobile networks. For users it means existing applications can be carried out more quickly and to a higher standard of quality. In addition, we are also aware of the great potential for 5G to support new and innovative services. 5G is already being used and tested across a number of different sectors benefitting people and businesses such as in farming, manufacturing and transport,” Ofcom said.

”We also consider that the resulting improved capacity and speed that the networks will be able to provide, aligns with our commitment to bring tangible benefits to UK citizens, consumers and businesses through enabling wireless services in the broader economy,” the regulator added.

Ofcom added that they’re currently also “minded to make similar changes available to the licenses of other licensees operating in these bands, upon request“.

The consultation is expected to run until July 1, 2022.

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