back to article Tesco Mobile complains to Ofcom

Tesco Mobile, and O2 which provides its network, has complained to Ofcom that changes to spectrum allocation could drive the supermarket's mobile offering out of business. Tesco has realised that when O2 loses half its 900MHz spectrum in 2009 it will be Tesco Mobile customers who suffer, as the virtual operator camps on O2's 2G …

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Give it away, then pay for it later?

It's a bit rich for Ofcom, who seem to be single handedly screwing the telecoms industry for it's own political agenda and not in the public interests whatsoever.

It's a bit like giving someone a Christmas Present, and then going back to them 2 years later and saying 'Yeah - you know that present you got from me - I need the money for it now as I've had a change of heart'.

Someone needs to tell Ofcom to wind their necks in a little. Oh - that's right - they're a political quango. My mistake...

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Tesco Mobile also uses O2's 3G

It's not true that Tesco Mobile only uses 2G coverage from O2. I've bought Sony Ericsson K610i from Tesco some time ago, and it had no problems using O2's 3G network, including video calls, which I personally did. Even SIM card pack had a little '3G' label on it, suggesting it is actually a SIM card designed to use 3G services.

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Joke

free spectrum for commercial use???

damn..... If only the deals at my local tesco were that good!

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Jobs Horns

So O2 is about to loose a load of 2G capacity?

Can anyone think of a recently launched, over hyped, over price, underspec'ed handset launched exclusively via O2 that can only do 2G?

That's made my day.

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Ofcom quango?

I signed up for newsletters from Ofcom and I get the strongest impression that there is a little committee sitting somewhere in an ancient dusty cellar, with equally ancient and dusty members, purely for the purpose of thinking up schemes just to keep Ofcom in business and to justify their existence. I, personally have never had much luck when complaining to Ofcom about various issues, such as radio station formats being allowed to change so much over time, that a particular station today is totally unlike the original start-up. I`ve also complained bitterly about technical standards, in particular, the hideous amounts of audio compression and processing that is applied to radio stations` outputs but all I seem to get in the way of replies is a load of waffle, saying that the majority of people listen to the radio in environments that justify the processing. DAB was supposed the dog`s dangly bits when it was first introduced and what`s happened to that? More and more stations crammed in with lower and lower bit rates (complete with audio compression) even to the extent of BBC7 being in mono! I despair.

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Joe
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Hypocrisy!

If this were the other way around, Tesco would no doubt be saying "that's market forces! Move with the times!" etc., just like when they were forcing other people out of business.

Bah, what's new?

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And about time too...

Thank god we'll be a step closer to getting rid of those quirky virtual network operators who limit what can be done with data services. Now's the best time ever to simplify data access, and getting rid of Tesco will be a nice big step towards this.

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Stop

What does it mean for iPhones?

In all their 2G glory are they going to be sans-network in a couple of years time if O2 become 3G only?

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Jobs Halo

Forward thinking or rather a lack of it?

The thought occurs; did O2 know Ofcom were thinking of taking a chunk of their 2G network away before or after they stumped up for the "privilege" of being the sole provider for the 2G only iPhone?

I'll laugh if this comes to pass, despite loving the iPhone, it will serve Apple right for not releasing them to the highest bidder, rather than unlocked and/or to the best carrier available.

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iPhone Haters - sorry guys

For those of you who love to think the iPhone would be nobbled, you all forget there's a few main frequencies (at least) for 2G - 850, 900, 1800 and 1900.

In the UK we use 900 and 1800, and most of the mobile networks have started moving off 900 and onto 1800.

The iPhone is quad-band (850,900,1800,1900Mhz) which means that it won't make a blind bit of difference - especially because only 20% of the phone population are 3G handsets, and 3G coverage is minimal in the UK anyway. What about those of us who live outside London (yes, there is a country outside of London...)

The only likely outcome of this is 2G being 1800 only in the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

Another reason?

In my local Tesco, only the 900MHz band seems able to penetrate the reinforced structure.

I could use O2 in there, but not Orange or T Mobile.

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Unhappy

And the customers will be the last to know...

It is still a bit early for Tesco to make a fuss about advertising any change, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to tell customers about this, if it does turn into a loss of service capacity.

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Jobs Horns

RE: iPhone Haters

To mark W - Yes the iPhone can use GSM1800 but O2 don't have an 1800mhz licence.

Orange and T-mobile use 1800Mhz, always have and always will (until the 2G switchoff anyway)

Vodafone and O2 use 900Mhz, always have. So while an iPhone would still work in the 1800 band unless you get it unlocked to Orange or T-mobile it will be well and truely nobbled.

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Anonymous Coward

O2 and vodafone on 1800MHz

Andrew Murphy - you are wrong, O2 and vodafone both operate GSM on 1800MHz (as well as on 900MHz). Just from a quick look around, using sitefinder http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk/ and there is an O2 1800MHz site at postcode "BS8 1EJ" and a vodafone 1800MHz site at "BS8 1LN".

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Boffin

RE: O2 and vodafone on 1800MHz

O2 and Vodafone have a 5 Mhz wide allocation each on 1800 MHz to aid with capacity on urban 900 MHz sites. This is compared to the 30 MHz wide allocation given to Orange and T-Mobile on the same band. The total spectrum allocation O2 and Vodafone have on 900 & 1800 MHz for GSM is less than that allocated to Orange & T-Mobile on their single band. This means that the dual band operators have to use much tighter frequency re-use across their sites compared to the 1800 MHz only operators, and this is before the proposed chunk of 900 MHz spectrum is taken from them. If forced to give up any 900 MHz spectrum, both operators could have capacity problems in many areas hence the Tesco Mobile objection.

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Happy

For Mark W

'3G coverage is minimal in the UK anyway. What about those of us who live outside London (yes, there is a country outside of London...)'

i'm outeside london and i get 3g on my phone....

and i'm in wales where most signals seem to get lost in the valleys

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Black Helicopters

RE: O2 and tesco

As all you haughty types argue it out your forgetting I am one of the customers certain elements seem to be dising on.

I dont need want or use 3g "services"

Have a look at your 3g "service provider" its an excuse for them to pedal more inane useless crap to stupid people. I dont want to hear whos calling me half the time on my mobile let alone video call or conference with the gits.

I want an operator to provide the following as a minimum:

Great coverage (esp indoors and out of the major urban area)

cheap calls during the day when i use my phone the most.

cheap text messaging to let herself or the boss know that public transport has its unpunctual downside ;-)

And a call center thats located in the country where the operator provides service (Big Hint to 3 here, thats why your down at least one customer!)

You dont get any of the above from current 3G services because they had to pay through the nose and just like broadband if where you live doesnt end in city., well get lost!

So tesco/O2 are right to stand up to ofcom, but not for the reasons they are doing.

As for 3G data, i spend 8 hours a day looking at a pc in work, another 2 at home, isnt that enough without being connected by my phone also??

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Wireless Telephony

At risk of being categorised as having (mistakenly) survived the last Ice Age, I think I'm with Mick on this issue.

What I want is a service which is function-rich even if this means it's feature-poor. E.G., I want a phone that works everywhere, receives and makes calls with reasonable audio quality even if the nearest cell is behind the next mountain, with a battery that lasts a zillion years between one nano-second recharges.... oh, and it should send an receive text messages with ease and without delays, even at a second past midnight on New Year.

And I don't want to be screwed on charges just because I have the impudence of wanting to phone from the US or from France or anywhere else where my chosen carrier has a subsidiary - why should I be charged more for a call from Calais than I would from Carlisle ....?

OK, I ask too much.

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Happy

RE: Give it away, then pay for it later?

...sounds strangely familiar. Oh that's right, it's the sort of sharp marketing practice which the mobile comms cartel^H^H^H^H^H^H industry imposes on its poor consumers.

Suddenly they think this sort of thing is unfair do they?

I haven't laughed so much in ages.

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Coat

O2 and Voda try not to use 1800 for calls

IIRC O2 and Voda try to handover any handset which has ended on their 1800 band down to 900. So you end up being on 1800 only if you have 3-band US handset or in major capacity problem areas like Liverpool Street station. Their entire frequency planning is designed with this in mind.

If ofcom yanks the 900 band they have to redesign their entire network. Time to buy T-Mob SIM (can't believe I am saying it).

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@Mick

I couldn't agree more with you mate, mobile phones are for phoning on the move and maybe the odd text

However I have recently replaced my trusty GSM Sony Ericsson W300i on O2 with a 3G K800i so that I'm future proofed to some extent (unless O2 and the GSM Association suceed in their bid to abandon UMTS @ 2100 Mhz)

The call quality is slightly better on 3G (though O2 and Voda use the GSM full rate speech codec on their 2G networks as opposed to the superior but battery draining Enhanced Full Rate as used by Orange and T-Mobile and their dependent virtual networks) but that is the only benefit I can see.

I was a One2One/T-mobile and then Virgin Mobile customer but the EFR is the only thing I miss about these networks.

All the networks know that 3G has flopped but they have to try to claw back those billions spent on licences and new network kit somehow so customers are subjected to a Microsoft style forced upgrade at knifepoint scenario (upgrade or your phone wont work anymore) supported by our fat treasury controlled ofcom.

I think I should become an MP, sure beats working for a living.

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Anonymous Coward

Indian giving ?

I don't think so.

Bear in mind that OFCom doesn't own the spectrum, they licence it to commercial outfits *on our behalf*. Eminent domain comes into play here, so bearing in mind that the commercial operators have indeed benefited from the growth of mobile telephony, and there are alternative frequencies available, then yes WE should reclaim our loan. Unless you are happy giving the raw materials of the business to operators for free, which they then charge us through the nose for.

Besides which, even those expensive 3G licences aren't forever, so how the operators can claim ownership of any particular part of the spectrum, regardless of how they first gained it, is ridiculous. The key word is "licence".

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Dont see any problem with this..

Those frequencies are auctioned out usually, and at a hefty price, are they not?

So two major companys got theirs for free for several years. Companys who are not exactly poor.

They should be happy they had them while it lasted, and start paying like their competitors already do, i see no problem with that.

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Boffin

GSM900 frequencies were NOT given away

A licence is required by the operators for each GSM channel they operate on. For the GSM900 band the current annual fee is £142,560 for each 2 x 200 kHz national channel in the 880.0-960.0 MHz band.

By my calculations the operators are paying almost £12 million in licence fees each per year, not including their licences for the GSM1800 band. You can make your own calculations if you refer to the information at this link:

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051378.htm

The above blows a little hole in all the comments about Vodafone and O2 having to give back something they are not paying for.

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IT Angle

Get it right

On the last comment by 'Anonymous Coward' - which competitors are you thinking of that paid for their spectrum?

All four operators which are licensed to use 900MHz or 1800MHz spectrum for GSM (O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange), were given those licences for free. Each of those pays an annual spectrum fee to Ofcom, in the region on £16m.

Those four plus Hutchison 3G acquired licences to operate UMTS at 2.1GHz, paying an aggregate £22bn in the big 3G auction. This was effectively a bid to stay in the market, as it appeared (at the time) to be the only opportunity to acquire an option to offer the next generation of technology, at a time when the consumer market was booming. The high aggregate fee was a consequence of the anticipated demand for advanced services, and an auction which was very well designed - at least from the government's point of view. [NB the £22bn went straight to the HM Treasury. You can think of it as a tax on future profits, paid by the shareholders of each of the successful bidders. Those shareholders will include, indirectly, most UK workers with a commercially-provided pension since Vodafone and BT (owner at the time of O2, then Cellnet) are major cap stocks which feature in most pension managers' portfolios.]

What other competitors? WiFi operators use unlicensed spectrum at 2.4GHz. No fee on allocation, no annual fee to Ofcom. Pipex Wireless (or Freedom4 whatever) and UK Broadband acquired their licences to operate 'fixed' wireless access systems at 3.6GHz, this time at auction.

The point of this article is that Ofcom's proposals on 'refarming' represent a major redistribution of spectrum rights. This redistribution would remove a very significant amount capacity from O2 and Vodafone, to the practical benefit of T-Mobile and Orange. Ofcom claims that the benefit derives from other operators being able to offer services at 900MHz, with the better propagation characteristics provided by this band compared with 1800MHz or 2.1GHz. It is debatable whether the Communications Act 2003 was intended to promote such interventionist activity, or indeed whether it would actually benefit UK consumers in any material way.

Sorry for a dull post - but this is my job and it is irritating to read an endless stream of partly-informed posts. Not sure there is an IT angle, though.

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A forward looking regulator

I have been in the mobile business for 20 years working all around the world. You guy's are lucky you have a regulator who works really hard to understand what is best for you the users, and the UK as a whole. Yes they don't always get it right... the 'well designed' 3G auction backfired to a certain extent. However, you have one of the best regulators in the world and that is reflected in a very competitive market and the respect they have internationally.

3G now has the capability to deliver real broadband speeds, unfortunately @ 2100 Mhz rural and quality indoor coverage are economically very challenging. Allowing 3G use the 900Mhz band is a great opportunity to close a big part of the digital divide and increase competition in broadband, voice and messaging (e.g. with broadband on your phone you can use Skype and IM). Many other European countries are doing it and to remain competitive so does the UK. There is enough spectrum in the 900Mhz band to support both GSM and 3G IF it is used efficiently and that is what Ofcom is effectively pushing for....... efficiency. The voice quality is better and the capacity is better. Eventually 2G/GSM will have to be retired (~10 years?) as it will not be economical and will not support the services the market requires.

The perspective of an outsider looking in……..

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Black Helicopters

@ Get it Right / Mick

Don't forget that 3 will profit too. You also forgot to explain to the unitiated that the footprint of a UMTS/3G 2100 cell is approximately the same as GSM900.

By moving UMTS also down into the 900 band (and reducing GSM900 capacity), you WILL be able to make calls in those far-flung welsh mountainsides and be able to check the web or call from the Tesco's wine aisle to check what price Sainsbury's are knocking the same item out for since the 3G footprint at 900MHz will be so much bigger.

The refarming is the main issue here, and the fact that OfCom is looking to take 7.5MHz from both O2 and Vodafone. Considering that they have 17.4MHz, and will need to move a further 5MHz of GSM traffic out to put their own UMTS900 carrier there, they will need to reduce GSM900 capacity by 72% within 30 months or so, without a commensurate reduction for Orange and T-Mobile.

As a company would you like 72% of a key resource being removed, without your competitors being similarly penalised/

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3G/HSDPA coverage ouside of London

'3G coverage is minimal in the UK anyway. What about those of us who live outside London (yes, there is a country outside of London...)'

I travel throughout the UK most weeks and I have a T-Mobile HSDPA USB Modem that gives me most of the time 3.6Mb download. Before I bought the device I tested it and the UK coverage is good especially outside of London. I look forward to this being excellent when 3 and T-Mobile network merge later this year. Roll on 7.2MB downloads later this year along with HSUPA.

What I read O2 have not met Ofcom's minimum of 80% UK population coverage from the 3G licence they bought. I read it is not above 30%. I can't find anything about HSDPA on O2's website. So the question is if Apple release a 3G/HSDPA iPhone which UK network will win that contract?

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