By Claire West

The UK is set to benefit from a new generation of wireless services and improved mobile broadband coverage under new Government plans to revolutionise the country’s digital infrastructure, announced today.

Minister for Communications, Ed Vaizey, launched a programme of measures for radio spectrum modernisation, which will allow mobile operators to deliver the latest technologies to consumers and extend the reach of mobile broadband across the country.

The Minister commented:

“The past 20 years has seen a revolution in mobile technologies and devices that have transformed the way we communicate, learn and do business.

“We want the UK market to remain at the fore of delivering devices like the iPad and smart phones but they need the networks to continue to improve and increase services.

“Under our plans, our mobile industry will have access to the 21st Century infrastructure it needs to give UK consumers the latest technologies and even better coverage for broadband on their mobile phones.”

The spectrum modernisation programme will be implemented under a Direction to regulator OFCOM, which has been laid in Parliament.

The new Direction is a simplified version of that proposed by the previous Government and measures include:

·Requiring OFCOM to co-ordinate a combined auction of 2.6GHz and 800MHz spectrum as soon as possible in order that operators can deliver widespread high speed mobile broadband;

·Requiring OFCOM carry out a competitive assessment of future 3G and 4G markets, including the potential for new entrants. Their assessment will inform the design of the auction, aimed at enabling delivery of new competitive mobile broadband services for UK consumer and business benefit;

·Liberalising 2G spectrum at 900MHz and 1800MHz, implementing the EU’s revised GSM directive to allow operators to use these frequencies for 3G technologies;

·Making 3G licences indefinite to encourage greater investment in 3G services to reach more consumers across the UK. They will also be made tradable, and;

·Requiring Ofcom to apply annual licence fees to reflect the market value of these licences which will be applied after the initial licence term (ends 31 December 2021).

The Minister also announced funding for a generous compensation package to support the Programme Making and Special Events users (PMSE) who are moving out of the 800MHz spectrum.

The funding will make a significant contribution to the costs of the PMSE community in upgrading equipment to suit their new operating frequency.

The new package will ensure PMSE companies can invest in equipment suitable for the Channel 38 frequency, from 2012 when they are moved out of Channel 69 (800MHz frequency)

This offer has been made because PMSE users had an expectation to use Channel 69 until at least 2018. However, this was brought forward to 2012 under revised proposals and the compensation therefore reflects the need for PMSE users to invest in new equipment earlier than originally envisaged.

The support provided will not take into account the age of the equipment that requires upgrading, although the equipment will need to be in working order. OFCOM will be providing further details on the package shortly.

The decision is in line with the announcement that funding would be provided to clear the 800MHz spectrum that will be freed up as part of the Digital Switchover programme. This, and the availability of other frequencies will give mobile operators increased capacity to operate current and future devices on a larger scale, more effectively.