sharon white 150x150Sharon White at OFCOM is leading Europe to spectrum sharing, setting aside 3.8 GHz to 4.2 GHz, enough to make an enormous difference in carrier capacity. For monopoly spectrum, she is proposing buildout requirements to 90% of the land mass (not population), more rural towers (500), a limit on the maximum spectrum one company can own (37%), and using spectrum auctions to make these happen. The result will be better broadband at a (relatively) modest cost.

She's launched a consultation on 700 MHz & 3.6-3.8 spectrum auctions, including the buildout and tower-building requirements. The goal is an auction in the spring. Mark Jackson reports 

The 700MHz Coverage Obligation

The binding coverage rules mean that up to two winning bidders would each have to, within 4 years of the award:

1. Extend good, outdoor data coverage to at least 90% of the UK’s entire land area within four years of the award.

2. Improve coverage for at least 140,000 homes and offices which they do not already cover. This means new coverage will be targeted at areas that are harder to reach; and

3. Provide coverage from at least 500 new mobile mast stations in rural areas. This will ensure operators transform coverage in areas where it is lacking, rather than meeting the rules by just boosting existing signals

Sharing spectrum on average doubles or triples the capacity of a given band. OFCOM proposes to share 3.8-4.2 GHz and also 1800MHz and 2300MHz, 

Mark Jackson at ISPreview has a well-reported article that looks more closely.

Consultation: Award of the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz spectrum bands

  • Start: 18 December 2018
  • Status: Open 
  • End: 12 March 2019

We manage the airwaves – or spectrum – used by all wireless devices, including mobile phones. Reliable mobile services have become essential to how people live and work across the UK, and mobile phone networks must keep pace with the growing needs for capacity and for coverage. This is a priority for us. We want to see coverage of good quality mobile broadband from a choice of providers, wherever people live, work and travel.

In this document, we set out proposals for an award of spectrum to enable the industry to provide services with greater capacity and wider coverage, and to pave the way for companies to take advantage of new wireless technologies, including 5G – the next generation of mobile technology. Importantly, we are proposing to provide strong incentives for the companies which participate in the award to invest in providing better quality services in rural areas, furthering our ambition to achieve comprehensive mobile coverage for people right across the UK.

Improving mobile coverage

Alongside this consultation, we have published a document which provides an overview of all the steps we are taking to improve mobile coverage (PDF, 173.7 KB).

Responding to this consultation

Please submit responses using the consultation responses form (RTF, 1.4 MB).

Getting rural areas connected

18 December 2018


  • Mobile and broadband coverage improve, but more progress needed in rural areas
  • New Ofcom rules to boost mobile reception in areas that need it most
  • Plans for ‘spectrum sharing’ to support improved mobile coverage and innovation


Mobile and broadband coverage are improving in the UK, but too many rural areas still get a poor signal – according to Ofcom’s major study of the UK’s communications networks.

Our annual Connected Nations report shows that mobile coverage continues to increase. Almost all homes and offices can get a good, indoor 4G signal from at least one operator; while 77% are covered by all four networks, up from 65% a year earlier.

Indoor reception is important, but people also expect a good signal when outdoors and on the move. Today’s report finds that 78% of the land mass has ‘complete’ call coverage from all four operators – up from 69% a year ago.

And 91% of the UK’s geography has a good 4G mobile internet signal from at least one operator, up from 80% last year. Two thirds (66%) of the land mass has ‘complete’ 4G coverage from all four, up from 49% last year.

But too many rural areas are left with patchy or unreliable mobile reception. For example, while 83% of urban homes and offices have complete 4G coverage, the figure for rural premises is less than half that (41%). In some remote parts of the country, there is no coverage at all.

So Ofcom wants to see faster progress in rolling out mobile internet to areas still lacking good coverage – allowing people to make calls, access the web, stream video and use smartphone apps wherever they happen to be.

Today we have set out updated plans to release new airwaves for mobile services, including requirements for operators to significantly increase outdoor data coverage, using at least 500 new transmitter sites to reach more people and businesses.

Releasing more airwaves for mobile

We plan to auction two spectrum ‘bands’ for mobile services together, in late 2019 or early 2020.


  • The 700 MHz band. These airwaves are well suited for providing good-quality mobile coverage, both indoors and across very wide areas – including the countryside.
  • The 3.6 GHz – 3.8 GHz band. This ‘mid-frequency’ spectrum, which will be auctioned alongside the 700 MHz band, is suitable for supporting lots of data-hungry connections in concentrated areas. It can be used to offer 5G services – the next generation of very fast mobile broadband.


Ofcom plans to include binding coverage rules with the spectrum. These mean that up to two winning bidders would each have to, within four years of the award:


  • Extend good, outdoor data coverage to at least 90% of the UK’s entire land area within four years of the award.[1]
  • Improve coverage for at least 140,000 homes and offices which they do not already cover. This means new coverage will be targeted at areas where it is needed; and
  • Provide coverage from at least 500 new mobile mast stations in rural areas. This will ensure operators transform coverage in areas where it is lacking, rather than meeting the rules by just boosting existing signals.


During next year’s auction, the price for winning airwaves that carry these rules would be discounted by up to £300-400m – to reflect the significant investment required to meet them, and the social benefits they will deliver.

Ofcom’s priority is working towards comprehensive mobile broadband coverage across the UK. At the same time, we are supporting the development of 5G – the next generation of mobile networks – to increase mobile capacity and help the UK remain a world leader in mobile technology.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said: “Mobile coverage has improved across the UK this year, but too many people and businesses are still struggling for a signal. We’re particularly concerned about mobile reception in rural areas.

“As we release new airwaves for mobile, we’re planning rules that would extend good mobile coverage to where it’s needed. That will help ensure that rural communities have the kind of mobile coverage that people expect in towns and cities, reducing the digital divide.”

Sharing spectrum to support coverage and innovation

Ofcom has today also published plans to allow certain spectrum to be shared by different users, to support innovation and local coverage initiatives across the UK economy.

Some of these airwaves could support wireless technology in areas as diverse as logistics, mining, agriculture and connected devices that will form the ‘Internet of Things’. Other airwaves could be used by organisations and groups to build and operate their own local mobile networks, improving coverage indoors and outside.

For example, we propose to make spectrum available for shared use in the 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands, which can be used by existing mobile handsets. We also plan to enable third parties to use airwaves that are licensed to mobile operators, but not being used by them. This could be particularly suitable for local communities to boost coverage.

Broadband progress

Today’s Connected Nations report also shows progress made in extending decent broadband coverage to the whole country.

The proportion of premises that cannot receive decent broadband – offering a ‘download’ speed of 10 Mbit/s, and an ‘upload speed’ of 1 Mbit/s – has halved this year from 4% to 2%.

However, that still leaves 677,000 homes and offices without decent broadband. The large majority of these (496,000) are in rural areas. So as operators continue to extend networks, Ofcom is working to implement the UK Government’s universal broadband service. This will give eligible homes and offices the right to request decent broadband by 2020.[2]

Superfast broadband – which offers a download speed of at least 30 Mbit/s – is now available to 94% of homes and offices – up from 91% last year. We expect this to continue increasing as companies extend superfast networks, backed by funding from the UK Government and those in the Nations.

Ultrafast broadband, which is around ten times faster, is available to half (50%) of homes, up from 36% – largely as a result of continued upgrades by Virgin Media to its high-speed network.

Around 1.8 million premises now have access to ‘full-fibre’ broadband – an increase of 1m in a year. This newer form of broadband uses fibre-optic cables to connect buildings to the local street cabinet, replacing older copper wires. Full fibre is very reliable and can deliver speeds above 1 Gbit/s. Ofcom has taken a range of steps to promote investment in full fibre, and we expect coverage to accelerate in the coming months.

More reliable, secure networks

Connected Nations also considers the resilience and security of telecoms networks – which are especially important as people become reliant on them, and cyber threats increase.

Most incidents reported to Ofcom in the last year were interruptions to landline services, usually affecting a small number of customers for a short period of time. But while major incidents remain rare, Ofcom was concerned by the outage suffered by O2 on 6 December.

Today’s report announces three areas where Ofcom will work with industry to help avert large-scale outages, and reduce their potential scale and impact:


  • First, we are collecting targeted information from industry on network design, to identify elements which are paramount to ensuring availability. We will propose systematic, preventive checks that companies should apply to hardware, software and their internal processes to improve network availability and resilience.
  • Second, we will propose a code of best practice to reduce the time required to reconnect subscribers after large-scale network outages.
  • Third, we are examining how network companies that provide widespread, wholesale services – for example, to mobile ‘virtual network operators’ – might add extra protections for these customers.



What counts as mobile coverage?

Ofcom has raised the bar for defining mobile coverage in recent years, to reflect the demands of modern smartphones. In today’s Connected Nations report, and in setting our proposed new coverage requirements, we define an area as having mobile coverage if:


  • more than 95% of 90-second voice calls can be made without interruption; and
  • a data connection speed of at least 2 Mbit/s is available. This supports reliable web 
    browsing and streaming of HD video services.


1. Mobile network operators' current 4G coverage


4G coverage (% UK land area)

Two winning bidders would have to reach 90%

4G coverage (% UK premises, indoors)
BT/EE 84 88
O2 74 95
Three 78 89
Vodafone 79 94

2. On 5 December we proposed that BT would be the universal broadband service provider across the whole of the UK, excluding the Hull area; and KCOM would be the provider for the Hull area. In Scotland, we are working closely with the Scottish Government to ensure smooth interaction between its ‘Reaching 100%’ programme and the universal broadband service

dave ask


Vivo is selling new the iQOO 5G premium quality phone for US$536.

Lei Jun Xiaomi "5G to have explosive growth starting from Q2 2020"5G to have explosive growth starting from Q2 2020" I say sooner

Verizon CEO Ronan Dunne: >1/2 VZ 5G "will approximate to a good 4G service" Midband in "low hundreds" Mbps

CFO John Stephens says AT&T is going to cut capex soon.

Bharti in India has lost 45M customers who did not want to pay the minimum USS2/month. It's shutting down 3G to free some spectrum for 4G. It is cutting capex, dangerous when the 12 gigabytes/month of use continues to rise.

Huawei in 16 days sold 1,000,000 5G Mate 20s.  

China has over 50,000 upgraded base stations and may have more than 200,000 by yearend 2019. The growth is astonishing and about to accelerate. China will have more 5G than North America and Europe combined for several years.

5G phone prices are down to $580 in China from Oppo. Headed under $300 in 2020 and driving demand.

No one believed me when I wrote in May, 90% of Huawei U.S. purchases can be rapidly replaced and that Huawei would survive and thrive. Financial results are in, with 23% growth and increased phone sales. It is spending $17B on research in 2019, up > 10%. 

5G phones spotted from Sharp and Sony

NTT DOCOMO will begin "pre-commercial service Sept 20 with over 100 live bases. Officially, the commercial start is 2020.

 More newsfeed


Welcome  1,800,000 Koreans bought 5G in the first four months. The demand is there, and most of the technology works. Meanwhile, the hype is unreal. Time for reporting closer to the truth.

The estimates you hear about 5G costs are wildly exaggerated. Verizon is building the most advanced wireless network while reducing capex. Deutsche Telekom and Orange/France Telecom also confirm they won't raise capex.

Massive MIMO in either 4G or "5G" can increase capacity 3X to 7X, including putting 2.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz to use. Carrier Aggregation, 256 QAM, and other tools double and triple that. Verizon sees cost/bit dropping 40% per year.

Cisco & others see traffic growth slowing to 30%/year or less.  I infer overcapacity almost everywhere.  

Believe it or not, 80+% of 5G (mid-band) for several years will be slower than good 4G, which is more developed.