Bidders confirmed for UK 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum auction

Ofcom has today published the list of applicants that have qualified to take part in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum auction. These are:

· Everything Everywhere Limited (UK)

· HKT (UK) Company Limited (a subsidiary of PCCW Limited)

· Hutchison 3G UK Limited

· MLL Telecom Ltd

· Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)

· Telefónica UK Limited

· Vodafone Limited

Ofcom anticipates that bidding will start in January. More information on the auction is available on the Ofcom website http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/spectrum/spectrum-awards/ .

A news release can be found here http://media.ofcom.org.uk/2012/12/20/4g-auction-bidders-announced/?utm_source=updates&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=4g-bidders .

Latest Small Cell Forum market status report published for Q4 2012

Just ahead of the Small Cell Forum’s meeting in Dallas last week, Informa Telecoms and Media has published their latest small cell market status update for the fourth quarter of 2012.  This highlights the dramatic growth in shipments of small cells with Informa estimating that between October and November 2012 that the number of small cells deployed surpassed macrocells at 6 million small cells versus 5.9 million macrocells.  It is also increasingly hard to find an operator without some belief in the future small cells with 97.5% of mobile operator respondents to Informa’s survey saying that they believe that small cells are key for the future of mobile networks.

The high growth in the number of small cells deployed appears to due to two factors:

  • A steady flow of small cell launches by operators in 2012 – according to the report there were 10 new small cell services launched by operators in 2012 bringing the total of small cell commercial deployments to 46 across 25 countries worldwide.  Interestingly since this summer the UK has become one of only two countries where all operators have small cell offerings.
  • Early adopter operators of small cells seeing the number of small cell sites in their networks reach significant levels – the report highlights Sprints announcement that their network reached 1 million femtocells in October 2012, having been the first to launch femtocells commercially in September 2007, and estimates that the AT&T network will have similar levels of femtocells.  Softbank and Vodafone UK deployments are also reported at above 100,000 femtocells.

The report provides a very interesting case study from Vodafone Greece which is said to be the first hard launch of small-cell zone services based on location.  The case study describes a public-area small cell service which has been launched by Vodafone Greece recently in partnership with fixed line provider Hellas Online (HOL) and two of Greece’s fast food and café groups, Goody’s fast food restaurants and Flocafe.  The service makes use of both WiFi and 3G access points to offer free data connections to its customers when in 200 of its partners’ premises.  The service named “Free 3G Hotspot” is triggered once a subscriber is handed over from a macrocell to a small cell in one of the venues and effectively white lists all traffic from the subscriber whilst they are using the small cell so that their data usage in the registered venues appears free of charge.  This is an interesting application of small cells which may lead to other revenue avenues for operators such as targeted advertising, being able to provide user statistics  to venue partners and being able to provide customised mobile services in venues that are attractive to venue partners (such as log in screens with special discounts, store maps etc.). 

This has similarities to O2’s decision in the UK to partner with a series of venues to provide free indoor wireless broadband in certain locations (see http://www.cambridgewireless.co.uk/Presentation/Mobile.Broadband_Gavin.Franks_10.10.12.pdf). However, key differences appear to be:

  • The O2 offering is purely WiFi based and in unlicenced spectrum.
  • The O2 offering is open to any mobile users – not just O2 subscribers.  O2 felt this was crucial for gaining interest and partnership with venues.
  • The O2 offering doesn’t charge the subscriber for this service in any way whereas the Vodafone Greece “Free 3G Hotspot” appears to assume that the user has an existing contract even if the traffic used in the venues does not come out of the user’s monthly data allowance.

Finally the Informa report highlights a growing interest amongst operators in public access and metrocell deployments with AT&T announcing plans to deploy 40,000 LTE public area small cells to cover dense urban areas and SK Telecom’s launch of public access LTE services in June 2012.  The report also mentions recent wins by Virgin Media in the UK to deploy WiFi metrocells in cities, that will likely become cellular in future, and a growing body of companies announcing plans for Small Cells as a Service (ScaaS) offerings which would package and make wireless ready batches of street furniture sites to operators for small cell deployments in urban areas.  Multimode access points are highlighted as a key technology enabler for this market as operators in the short term want to address capacity bottlenecks on 3G networks but also want to have a migration path towards LTE and an offload option via WiFi where available.  Traffic balancing across these radio access technologies is seen as an important area to make multimode access points reach their full potential.  Vendors are already responding with announcements of multimode small cell products from both NTT DoCoMo and Ubiquisys recently.

The full Informa report can be obtained from the Small Cell Forum’s website at:

http://www.smallcellforum.org/resources-white-papers