Internet: 4G Spectrum

House of Lords written question – answered on 4th July 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the latest timetable for the auction of the 4G spectrum; and whether that auction will specify that mobile telephony operators should guarantee a full rural coverage as part of their bid contract.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Ofcom remains on schedule for the auction process to start by the end of 2012. This is compatible with the spectrum becoming available to allow successful bidders to start rolling out 4G services in these bands.

Coverage obligations were included in the recent Ofcom consultation which closed on 22 March. Ofcom proposed in that consultation to impose a coverage obligation on one 800MHz licensee extending to 98% of the UK population (and potentially 95% of the population of each nation), or requiring one 800MHz licensee to provide 4G coverage that matches existing combined 2G voice coverage and extends into existing "not spot" areas due to be covered by the Government's £150 million investment in new mobile network infrastructure (to the extent that that infrastructure can accommodate 4G equipment). Ofcom has proposed that this obligation be imposed on a single 800MHz licensee to ensure that consumers in rural areas, and those that visit those areas and require good coverage, are able to get good 4G coverage from the same operator in all areas. Ofcom also consulted on the option of imposing this same obligation on all 800MHz licensees.

Ofcom is currently considering the responses received and is expected to make a statement in the summer.

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