Ofcom starts 800MHz and 2.6GHz auction race

Ofcom, the Super regulator that looks after radio spectrum (amongst others) has today released guidance for applicants and bidders PDF) and application forms for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum auctions.

These are similar to recent other spectrum auctions and all applications must be received by Ofcom by December 11th 2012 and at the same time Ofcom must have received a £100,000.00 deposit (which is refundable if the bidder doesn't win or withdraws from the auction within the withdrawal timeframe).

Ofcom will have some time to ensure the validity of the application and applicant (they must pass tests to ensure they are valid applicants).

On the 2nd dat Ofcom will tell all bidders of other bidders in their group.

Ofcom then allow 4 days for bidders to notify Ofcom on any group overlaps.

Ofcom then has 3 days to notify successfully qualified bidders, publish them on the Ofcom website and notify them of the last day for withdrawal.

The last day for withdrawal is 2 days following publication.

Ofcom will then publish the list of actual bidders.

Ofcom will use an electronic bidding system which allows bids to be submitted in rounds (this all gets very complicated, especially when an additional opt-in round is added to the process). Ofcom will train bidders on the use of the electronic voting system.

It's expected that at least O2 and Vodafone will bid for the 800MHz spectrum, though 3UK may join in too as they don't have any sub 1GHz spectrum at present. The 2.6GHz spectrum (especially low power licenses) may be more of a jamboree with some unexpected players joining in.

Ofcom to move DTT from 700MHz to 600MHz

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, is proposing to clear the current Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) band at 700MHz and move it to the 600MHz band that was cleared during the digital switchover. This is not going to be a quick process and Ofcom are proposing a 2018 switch-over date.

This is in-line with both EU and International harmonised spectrum policy.

The 700MHz band is already used for wireless broadband in countries such as North America and the EU also wishes to move in this direction to cope with future broadband spectrum requirements (the band could be used for LTE or other wireless broadband technologies). The 800MHz band is already being freed (as part of the digital switchover) and is being auctioned in early December 2012 and should be available in March 2013 and it is assumed the licensees will operate LTE services in the 2 bands being auctioned.

In order to move DTT services, it will be necessary to ensure maximum spectral efficiency and thus it's likely DTT MUX's will all have to migrate to DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 (as is used by Freeview HD) which may affect end-users as they will have to ensure they have the correct systems to receive these transmissions.

Ofcom are also keen to promote innovative new services such as White Space Devices (WSD) as these can use parts of the spectrum that aren't being used for DTT services (this is mainly due to overlapping DTT regions that have to use different frequency sets and thus there are areas of spectrum that are left empty in one area so as not to interfere with neighbouring areas). The 'white spaces' are perfectly usable for controlled transmissions that wont interfere with neighbouring areas, but can provide spectrum for broadband. WSDs will need to contact a central database, both to ensure that they are only using allowable frequencies and also Ofcom may enforce a kill switch to ensure that if interference does occur, that the devices can be remotely disabled.

Currently trials of WSDs are taking place in the 700MHz band.

Though 2018 seems a long way away, it took a huge amount of effort to ensure the current digital switchover could take place and it seems that this is really a second digital switchover (though DTT services already operate in the lower 600MHz band so new equipment and transmitters/etc shouldn't be required).


Zapd 2.0 goes live

What is Zapd? Well it's a hugely powerful mobile website builder, but usable by anyone and creates really professional looking websites that are available from any platform (phone, tablet desktop and whatever comes along in the future).

Currently available on iOS from iTunes, the user just selects a template (and there are lots of them, with more added every month) and then starts adding photos (and text and links that can describe the photo or anything else). A photo can be taken there and then, or batch uploaded from previous photos. Of course there are now image editing facilities now built into Zapd such as image enhancement (brightness, saturation, hues, colours etc), resizing, cropping etc.

Zapd 2.0 also has 'social' features built-in so users can now follow other people's Zaps, they can be followed and users can even collaborate on Zaps (so say you're at a wedding or party, just add friends there) and all their photos can go on to the same site.

There's also traditional sharing too so Zaps can be pushed to Facebook and other sites.

It's also completely free, though premium features are expected to be released in the future along with an Android version (note this version is a native app compared to the original Zapd which was built using Sensa Touch and Phonegap).

More info on their Facebook Page, Website and Twitter.

Blackberry 10 to launch Jan 30th 2013

RIM have announced that Blackberry 10 devices will launch on Jan 30th 2013 and that they have already received Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 security certification which means they are suitable for (US) Government use on launch.

The Blackberry 10 platform is based on QNX so is similar to the Playbook operating system which is already based on it and though it's possible to write native and Java based apps, RIM are no where near the number of apps available for Apple's iOS or Google's Android.

RIM have tried to be as developer friendly as possible and have given devices to anyone who'll listen, but with iOS and Android getting Government use approval, they may well have done too little too late.

Blackberry have always made smartphones (with keyboards) that excel in Email, text and instant messaging and also get phone features right (like handling pretty much any phone number format and being able to dial it correctly in the local convention) and they sort of do apps. This is contrast to iOS and Android which are computers that sort of do phone stuff.

Ofcom announces date for 800MHz and 2.6GHz auctions

Ofcom, the super regulator has announced that the auction for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands will commence on December 11th 2012.

The new regulations (pdf) covering the auction (know as a Standard Instrument) has been published and will come into force on November 23rd 2012.

Ofcom is proposing to auction the following lots: -

Lot CategoryA(i)A(ii)BCD(i)D(ii)E
800 MHz 2x5 MHz800 MHz 2x10 MHz (with coverage obligation)1800 MHz 2x15 MHz (Divestment)2.6 GHz 2x5 MHz (standard power)2.6 GHz 2x10 MHz (shared low power)2.6 GHz 2x20 MHz (shared low power)2.6 GHz 5 MHz (unpaired)
Ofcom’s proposal£225m£250m£225m£15m£3m per bidder, £30m threshold£6m per bidder, £60m threshold £0.1m

Lots A(i), A(ii) and C are suitable for generic mobile network operator LTE services, lot B is now irrelevant as EE have divested this spectrum to 3UK.

The low power bands D(i) and D(ii) are more suited to companies that have infrastructure and can offer femto cell type services (probably on a wholesale service to the main operators - for network offload), though new entrants could come in and offer innovative localised LTE services.

Lot E is probably suited to an operator who wants to offer broadband services (not using LTE which requires paired spectrum).

This means the minimum bid (if there only 1 bidder each for the low power license) is £499.1m, and if there are 10 low power bidders £580.1m. Obviously these are Ofcom's minimum bid values and the actual values could increase substantially.

Ofcom have also valued the 800Mhz significantly more than the 2.6GHz spectrum (as it has better propagation characteristics and therefore it's easier to cover large areas of population).

Ofcom agreed to move forward the auction after O2 and Vodafone threatened to take Ofcom to judicial review after allowing EE to offer LTE services on their 1800MHz spectrum, however O2 and Vodafone have no guarantees that they will win a license in either 800MHz or 2.6Ghz (though Ofcom can assess bidders not to be suitable to bid - but based on their stability etc).

Let the fun begin.