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Mobile operators see price of 4G spectrum cut by £180m

The operators need to invest extra in ensuring 4G rollout won’t interfere with digital TV

Mobile phone operators in the UK are set to save £180 million on the price of 800Mhz 4G spectrum in the upcoming auction, set to be held in the fourth quarter of this year, but only as compensation for other costs.

The £180 million sum will be shaved off the price of the spectrum, to help the mobile operators as they spend the money funding solutions for households that may experience interference to their digital terrestrial TV (DTT) during the 4G rollout.

Interference only occurs for the 800Mhz spectrum, which is considered to be highly valuable to operators, as it travels further than the other 2.6Ghz spectrum being auctioned off, because it is closest to the DTT spectrum band.

"There will be some interference when 4G services are rolled out but we will have the solutions in place to eliminate the disruption to television viewers," said Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesperson confirmed that approximately 900,000 households could be affected, where the majority will be provided with a filter that fits with their TV to limit disruption.

However, for approximately 10,000 households this solution will not suffice, and a change in television platform may be required. For example, these households may have to shift from digital terrestrial to a satellite alternative.

DCMS has confirmed that for approximately 500 households neither of these solutions will work, and up to £10,000 per household may have to be spent to find a solution.

A company is going to be established, which is set to be called "Nitco", to ensure the delivery of these solutions to households in the UK, and will be managed by the mobile operators that buy the 800Mhz spectrum.

The UK's 4G spectrum auction has been riddled with problems and delayed numerous times, largely due to mobile operators complaining to communications regulator Ofcom about the rules surrounding the allocation of spectrum.

However, the auction is now said to be held in the fourth quarter of 2012, with spectrum bands made available during 2013.

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