Ofcom plans to ensure at least 98 percent of the UK has access to 4G technology when the networks are rolled out in the UK.
The regulator made the announcement in new proposals released today following a consultation period that took place after the launch of the regulator's initial proposals covering the roll out of 4G in March last year.
The 4G network will use the 800MHz and 2.6GHz radio spectrums to offer faster mobile broadband services, with speeds thought to be as much as 'up to' 100Mbps. The spectrums will also be able to cope with a greater capacity than existing 3G services. The 800MHz band is currently used for terrestrial TV broadcasts, but the digital switchover means it can now be assigned for mobile broadband use.
As well as upping the percentage of the country that must be covered by 4G networks to 98 from the original 95, Ofcom also wants one of the mobile operators that acquires part of the 800MHz spectrum to 4G coverage that not only match existing 2G coverage but also extends into mobile 'not spot' areas of the UK where new mobile infrastructure has been installed using £150m of government investment because there is little or no commercial incentive for operators to do so.
The government investment was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in October last year and will come from unspent funds from other government departments.
Ofcom said that not only do these proposals have the potential to extend 4G mobile coverage even further than 98 percent of the UK by population but they also make it more likely that mobile broadband services would be provided in locations where they could be most valued by consumers.
The regulator also revealed it plans to ensure all four of the UK's mobile networks have access to spectrum to provide 4G networks, as well as reserving some spectrum in the 2.6GHz band to deliver innovative new mobile services for consumers, such as local mobile networks for student campuses, hospitals or commercial offices, which operate on short-range frequencies serving a small area.
Mobile operators can not begin rolling out these networks until Ofcom has auctioned off parts of the spectrum. The auction is currently scheduled to take place in the second quarter of 2012, which will means it'll be 2014 before the networks can begin rolling out 4G services across the country
Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: “The proposals published today will influence the provision of services to consumers for the next decade and beyond.
“We are proposing a significant enhancement of mobile broadband, extending 4G coverage beyond levels of existing 2G coverage – helping to serve many areas of the UK that have traditionally been underserved by network coverage.”
Ofcom has now launched a ten week consultation period during which stakeholders can comment on the second set of proposals. The regulator said it would set out plans for how the auction will take place in summer this year, with the actual auction following in Q4.