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back to article Brace yourselves, telcos: Ofcom triples cost of 2G spectrum holdings

Ofcom has set out charges for mobile operators who want to keep the 2G spectrum they were allocated in the '80s, and it's about triple what they're paying now. Numbers are in millions of pounds, and will go up every year Following the 4G auction, the problem remains of allocated spectrum; frequencies which were handed over to …

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2G shutdown

Is this really a plan to release the 2G spectrum for something else? Some super duper mobile internet thingy or mobile TV or...? 4G has started but unless you start to get everybody, including those who just want a mobile phone to make calls and do SMS, up to 3 or 4G then you'll be stuck paying up as much as OFCOM can get away with. All part of the market, and 2G is pretty captive.

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Re: 2G shutdown

The problem is that 2G spectrum is still the fallback for a lot of things and very useful.

That GPS tracker your firm fitted to your van? Probably 2G.

That smart-meter that talks home? Maybe 3G nowadays but the early ones were 2G.

And every phone falls back to 2G for a reason - it's the most ubiquitous, most kitted-out, and most easily received cell signal in the whole of the country. Without it, your phone would consume a LOT more battery power all the time anyway. Just because it says "3G" doesn't mean it's only using 3G. Similarly for 4G.

So not buying it is commercial death, really. It's like switching your cell network off. And the amount of places that can do 4G or even 3G at the moment is worse than those areas covered by broadband. Except you can't really tell farmer Joe that it's too expensive to run a mobile phone mast out to his home out in the sticks.

Expect to see call prices go through the roof now to "compensate" for the blinkered, unable-to-budget carriers who just want to sting customers and have been getting a free ride that they always knew would come to an end.

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HMB

Re: 2G shutdown

Sorry Lee, but I'm calling BS on your assertions, but with very good reason.

I'd like to say firstly that I'm sure you're correct about older smart meters and GPS trackers. I don't have an issue with that.

> And every phone falls back to 2G for a reason - it's the most ubiquitous, most kitted-out, and most easily received cell signal in the whole of the country

My phone along with a few million other people don't fall back to 2G. That's because I'm with three for my mobile service. I find the reception on a 3G only provider to be great and perhaps a little better than my previous provider of Vodafone. I live in a rural location and get great HSPA speeds. The skies haven't fallen in, the world hasn't ended and my separation from 2G hasn't caused me any battery life issues, strokes or respiratory failures.

So no. We don't need 2G anymore on networks that are ready to switch.

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Re: 2G shutdown

It's true that a lot of things might need to fall back to 2G, but it's a rather inefficient use of spectrum to have so much of it allocated "just in case". Increasing the cost to the operators will give them an incentive to share it or just use less of it, and maybe to install additional 3G/4G coverage to replace it.

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Re: 2G shutdown

ITYF that your 3 phone *does* fall back to 2G (originally O2's and later Orange's) networks when it can't find a 3G signal. This is because 3 bet on having coverage at 2.1GHz only, but couldn't roll out fast enough to meet coverage requirements so needed that 2G backup.

The 3G licences specified only 80% population coverage, so in fact 3G coverage has never been ubiquitous in the way that 2G sort of was. The 4G licences specify 98% population coverage to force network roll out to a lot more geographical areas.

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Re: 2G shutdown

3 have been turning off the fallback where they think their network has good enough coverage, might have even done this everywhere now.

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Re: 2G shutdown

If that is the case then neither of my kids' phones/tablets would work in our house, they have 2G backup in our area and the displays show the roaming symbol to back that up.

I can believe they have done this is areas where they have blanket coverage and high population density, if they did it everywhere then it would be a disaster for them. Have to wait for full 4G coverage before that becomes possible I'd say, they're never going to roll out 3G coverage to uncovered areas now unless it comes with the 4G transceivers they install (and it will of course).

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Anonymous Coward

The problem goes back to 1985, when "Racal Vodafone" (as it was known in those days) and Cellnet were allocated bands at 900MHz in which to run competing mobile networks based on GSM technology.

No they weren't. Back in those days it was TACS and E-TACS

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Boffin

Dates mixed up!

Quite! I worked in a small company from 1990 to 1995 and we were producing ETACS and AMPS test kit for the two international standards of the time. GSM had only just started to appear in 1995.

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Re: Dates mixed up!

You are both correct, but the extended spectrum for GSM was allocated (even if not actually usable) much earlier. GSM started to appear in other countries in 1991 IIRC.

If my ailing memory serves, I think that the (E)TACS frequencies were restricted to below 950MHz so that the top 10MHz of the 900MHz GSM band could be used for GSM development and early roll-out.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETACS shows that ETACS stopped at 950MHz, GSM900 band goes up to 960MHz.

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Anonymous Coward

A house for ants?!

Triple...? Those numbers look a lot more than triple...

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Re: A house for ants?!

Appears to be x5 for 900MHz and x4 for 1800MHz. Which obviously averages to x3 overall...?

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several reasons

You can run 2g/3g/4g in either band if the channelling lines up (it doesn't for 4g, as noted. Allocations aren't wide enough to handle 4G so there needs to be some juggling anyway)

The issues noted are that 900MHz works better in rural environments and indoors.

This means that O2/Voda have a distinct competitive/technical advantage (noone else has these bands) at a subsidised rate, simply because they were early players. There's nothing whatsoever stopping them handing the bands back or making better ouse of them, But if they don't pay for them why would they bother?

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When will Ofcom....

1: Think about allocating the old AMPS 800Mhz band for 2/3/4G?

2: Think about allocating the original 450MHz NMTS (The norwegian system that AMPS was based on) for the same purposes?)

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Stripped?

ITYM _striped_...

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Since when were the original spectrum shares handed out for nothing? Both Vodafone and Cellnet had coverage obligations they were expected to meet in return for the spectrum

Had the government stuck to that mode of allocation, the heyday bidding on 3G would have been replaced with operators competing to provide 100% nationwide 3G coverage - certainly the bidding amounts on top of the actual 3G investment would probably have enabled it. Then today we'd be sitting on one of the best networks on the planet.

Instead the money has long since been squandered and Britania has lost its Cool.

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