O2: Working with the regulator to build a stronger Mobile Britain

Derek McManus, COO of O2 – Earlier this year, O2 and the other mobile operators wrote to Ofcom asking for a technical change to our spectrum licenses. This week Ofcom has said yes, and the result will be a huge connectivity boost for our country. Let me explain.

Ourselves, EE, Three and Vodafone all asked for changes to our 5G spectrum licenses (3.4-3.8 GHz) that would bring us in line with a recent technical decision in the EU.

The change allows operators to use ‘Active Antenna Systems’ (AAS) which help us deliver an even better network connection in busy areas. By Ofcom aligning the UK with the rest of the EU on this matter, it means we can make use of equipment that’s being sold in the EU and also means the manufacturers only need to build to one consistent standard.

This is a really important step that means a high-quality 5G service can be rolled out in the UK – a great outcome for the country as a whole.

This is just one example of where we’ve worked with the regulator to improve mobile connectivity across the country. Another current topic of debate is the defragmentation of spectrum.

We have been pressing Ofcom for a long time to facilitate spectrum trading immediately after the principal stage of the next spectrum award in order to secure adjacent blocks. This is often referred to as “contiguous spectrum” and it ’ s important in 5G, since it unlocks the full potential of this new technology, improving performance for customers.

Over the years, operators have picked up different blocks of airwaves. The regulator needs to intervene and create a process, which would potentially allow all operators to secure contiguous spectrum. I was therefore very pleased to see Ofcom change tack this week and say it is now minded to facilitate this through a short period of negotiation as part of the next auction. The regulator is currently consulting on ways of achieving this and we’ll be responding constructively and supportively.

This issue, along with the introduction of AAS shows the importance of working collaboratively with the industry and the regulator, in the interests of a more connected, truly mobile Britain.

That’s always been our focus at O2, and mine as COO – and it will continue to be the case as we look at the most effective ways of bringing better mobile connectivity to the country.

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