One of the issues around the use of 800MHz is that the signals are likely to knock out terrestrial digital TV signals, known in the UK as Freeview. The four operators have created the Digital Mobile Spectrum group, which is tasked with ensuring that Freeview consumers in the UK do not suffer from interference from 800MHz LTE, an issue that if not dealt with could put a stumbling block on launching the technology. Under the plans, the four will contribute to a 180m pot of cash that will be used for equipment to tackle interference that up to an estimated 2.3m homes could face once 800MHz LTE launches. However, any operator that fails to win any 800MHz spectrum will not have to contribute and will drop out of the company.
How it will work in practice is that eligible households will receive a voucher to cover the cost of a special filter, which will be attached to the Freeview box in the living room. In some situations the funding will pay for an engineer visit, and in extreme situations where there’s no chance of terrestrial TV working again – presumably is they live right next to a LTE800MHz macros station. Interestingly, for around 500 homes in the UK, there will be no acceptable alternative – it’s unclear if the fund will extend to letting these poor people move home. (NB. This is a joke).
Either way, it’s a market of how serious the government and the operators to get this 4G thing moving and the coming together is in everyone’s interest.
Ofcom, the UK regulator pulled out an unusual masterstroke in allowing Everything Everywhere to refarm its spare 1800MHz frequency for LTE despite it clearly placing it at an advantage over its rivals who do not have such spectrum to spare. After initially throwing their toys out the pram, the move has clearly made the rival realise that they need to fight back with network engineers rather than with lawyers and get their own LTE plans going to earn revenue.
Therefore Three, Vodafone, and Telefonica won’t want anything to further delay their LTE plans, while Everything Everywhere will not want to be seen to be unfairly extended their LTE lead, which from an initial 12 months is now more likely to be six months.
As far as UK consumers go that’s a win.
How MetroPCS has handled interference between macro and small cells is one of the discussion points in the tracks that Small Cells North America conference being co-located at LTE North America 2012 taking place on the 14-15th November 2012. Click here to register your interest