> (Three having decided against running a 2G network at all).
To be fair, I don't think they had any choice in the matter. All the 2G spectrum that exists had already been given to the existing four operators when they entered the market, and a 3G licence and 3G spectrum was all that was on offer. They probably would have liked to have a 2G network up to about 2007 or so, when many of the most popular handsets were still 2G handsets (the originalMotorola RAZR, for instance) and 2G devices were still less power hungry and more reliable, but I can't imagine they care now. It would be possible for them to build a 2G network in a couple of years time by buying the 1800MHz spectrum EE is obliged to sell and building it there, but there is no point now. In the present technology environment, their present network is fine for competing with their competitors.
>EE and Three haven't said if their deal will extend into 4G technologies; holding
>that decision until after the 4G spectrum auction, but Vodafone and Telefonica
>have made it clear that they foresee the combined network extending well into
>the forth generation of mobile broadband.
When the T-Mobile/Orange merger was taking place, I did read reports that there was at least an option for network share for 4G in the existing T-Mobile/3 network share deal. Continuing with this deal was required by regulators in return for allowing the merger (which constrained the terms on which Orange was able to merge its network with the T-Mobile/3 network), so it may be that these parties are not as free to make that decision later as they would like to be and/or are claiming to be. I cannot imagine that there is much disagreement, though - their not continuing with the network share for 4G strikes me as very unlikely.
>Telefonica and Vodafone hold 2G spectrum at 900MHz, which has decent
>building penetration but is full of 2G customers. They also both have small
>holdings at 1800MHz and run their 3G networks at 2.1GHz like the rest of
>the world (though O2 has switched some of its 900MHz to 3G around London).
"Rest of the world" is a bit of an overstatement. Much of the world (but not Europe) used the US AMPS system for 1G analogue phones, which meant the allocation of the 850MHz bands. Almost all of the world (except for North America) then allocated 900MHz for 2G GSM, but as there is not significant overlap between these two bands, both 850MHz and 900MHz remained allocated in a lot of places. When 3G came along, most places announced that they would be allocating and using the 2100MHz UMTS band for it, but a lot of them subsequently discovered that 850MHz was still allocated, what networks existing in it (AMPS or CDMA) were underused and in decline, there was plenty of 850MHz hardware due to its use for 3G in the US, and that due to better building penetration and the like this was the best place to build their networks. There are therefore a surprisingly large number of 850MHz 3G networks in the world, in many cases with the bulk of the networks being at 850MHz with overlay of 2100MHz in the cities. There is certainly a lot more 850MHz 3G in the world than 900MHz 3G, even outside the US.
The rest of the non-Americas world followed Europe for 2G with respect to frequency bands and *then announced* that it would follow Europe for 3G, but what actually happened was bit more complex than this.
>How that maps onto the 4G networks we won’t know, but the commitment to
>deploy two 4G networks on the same infrastructure will impact the spectrum
>strategy of both companies: a combined network operator won't want to buy
>the chunk of 1800MHz that EE is required to get shot of, for example, so while
>the two networks will retain separate spectrum holdings the pooling of infrastructure
>will have an impact on the market.
If EE is allowed to build 4G at 1800MHz *and* if 1800MHz becomes a commonly used 4G frequency band elsewhere and hardware that supports it becomes relatively available, the obvious thing would be for Three to buy this spectrum holding from EE, and then use it for its network share with EE. Three and EE would then be happy, but O2 and Vodafone less so, one would think. (They would presumably each then buy a chunk of 2600MHz in an open auction and network share with that).