Ofcom, the communications regulator, has announced that mobile phone operators using the 2G spectrum will be able to provide 3G services as well.
By allowing operators to use the spectrum to provide 3G services, operators will be able to provide capabilities such as mobile internet browsing.
Previously, mobile phone operators could only use a limited amount of the airwaves spectrum to deliver 3G. The government sold 3G licences to operators in 2000, for more than £20 billion, according to the BBC.
This was because spectrum holdings were licensed in the 1990s with a condition that it could only be used for 2G services, mainly making phone calls and sending texts.
Now the spectrum will be able to support the rapid growth in demand for smartphones and mobile devices, and their broadband and rich media features.
Ofcom said that lifting the spectrum barrier would benefit consumers by enabling higher mobile broadband speeds, better indoor coverage quality, and wider coverage, especially in rural areas.
The UK was required to free up the 2G spectrum for 3G service by the European GSM Directive and Radio Spectrum Decision. The government directed Ofcom to comply with the European legislation by 30 December 2010.
A spokesperson for Ofcom told the BBC that the switchover had taken a long time, in spite of the high demand for 3G services, because the regulator had had to work through competition issues.
However, Ofcom said today that the initiative is “unlikely to result in a material distortion of competition that requires further action to be taken”.
Meanwhile, the regulator plans to auction airwaves of 2.6GHz and 800Mhz frequencies, which will offer speeds even faster than 3G networks, as part of the Digital Dividend auction by 2012.
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