29/07/2010

It's all go for 2.6GHz spectrum auctions (next year)

At least the UK Government and Ofcom have made up their minds (and fought of legal battles) and announced that the 2.6GHz chunk of spectrum (all 190MHz of it) will be auctioned at the end of 2011.

At the same time they'll auction off the old 800MHz spectrum which comes from the digital dividend. It's all prime spectrum as it has extremely good propagation characteristics i.e. it goes through walls well.

Ofcom at the same time will allow refarming of the 900MHz and 1800MHz GSM/PCN spectrum so that it can be used for 3G (or 4G/LTE) services, which is currently not allowed under the GSM laws. The existing 3G licenses (which expire in 2021) will be made indefinite with the licensees paying a yearly fee post 2021 to Ofcom.

BT was expected to bid for the 2.6GHz spectrum when it was originally meant to become available (late 2007/2008) but now it's likely they'll just expand their WiFi and MVNO offerings as the cost of the spectrum is expected to be extremely high and they're already spending a fortune expanding their fibre roll-out to most of the UK.

It's likely the spectrum will be snapped up by the existing Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) who will use it for high speed data services using LTE, though an outsider could come in and use it to offer wireless broadband or even 3G services of their own.

There's still a decision to be made on how the 900MHz spectrum (currently owned by O2/Telefonica and Vodafone) should be re-allocated and also the 1800MHz and 2.1GHz spectrum that Orange and T-Mobile own as they're now a single entity (in regulatory terms anyway) which means they own too much spectrum for a single network as per the 3G license.

So though it's a good move by the Government there's still a few issues to iron out, including the big issue of Ofcom itself as the Government is also trying to reduce spending on the Quangos that are currently in operation, Ofcom being a major one. Though licensing spectrum could be a big earner (especially the 2.6GHz and 800MHz chunks) which could pay for Ofcom for a few years.

28/07/2010

New 116 Numbers go live in the UK

Ofcom has announced that it is making two numbers in the 116 range live which are pan-European numbers.

116 006 which is a freephone number for victims of crime. The number will be free unless there is a pre-announcement stating that the number isn't free (which could happen from mobile networks).

116 117 is a freephone number for non-emergency medical help which is always free from any network.

More information can be found from Ofcom though this is another confusing number range where sometimes calls are free and sometimes they're not.

26/07/2010

Don't try and recycle that stolen phone anymore!

In the UK each of the mobile operators maintain a list of stolen phones and that's shared between all the operators and is disseminated within 48 hours of the phone being reported stolen.

That has worked pretty well within the UK and has stopped a lot of stolen phones being reused and caused difficulties for a few people who've had their IMEI blocked by mistake as the only recourse is to complain to their operator as users have no direct access to the block list. However there's been a massive loophole and that's selling phones to a recycling company as they tend to sell them on to operators abroad and up until now, there's been no checks to see whether the phone is on any stolen phone list. It's believed that this has led to around 100,000 stolen phones going abroad a year.

That's now changing and Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire has stated "By joining forces with the police, the mobile phone industry is closing a multi-million pound loophole that has been exploited by criminals and the industry should be congratulated. Alongside the impressive work on blocking stolen phones, this code will make mobile phone theft an even less profitable crime."

The Telecommunications Fraud Forum known as TUFF has drawn up a code of practice alongside the Government and Police and TUFF will administer it. So far 20 mobile phone recyclers have joined the scheme which represent 90% of the industry and the others are expected to follow suit.

Now if anyone tries to sell a stolen phone, the phone will will not be accepted and they will be reported to the Police.

Now the Government just needs a way to somehow track gold items and regulate the on-line/postal gold services who will also buy pretty much any gold item and immediately melt it down before anyone can complain.