Ability to provide good quality coverage – Ofcom Report on Auction Outcomes

Coverage is an important dimension of the quality of mobile data services available to consumers, especially the indoor coverage is increasingly important to consumers.

Viewing the quality of coverage from the perspective of the consumer experience, Ofcom considers various aspects such as where the consumers can obtain a service, the speed where it is available and the consistency of experience as consumers seek to use mobile data services in different locations. Ofcom has also considered the importance of this dimension to the credibility of a national wholesaler.

Coverage can be provided by the macro cell network and alternative means like small cells solutions like Wi-Fi and femtocells. Currently Wi-Fi plays an important role in providing services to mobile devices. Ofcom expects that Wi-Fi and small cells will continue to play an important role in future as well.

An important issue in the responses was with regard to sub-1 GHz spectrum. Whether sub-1 GHz spectrum was necessary for a national wholesaler to be credible, EE and H3G argued that it was necessary and H3G referred to statements on the value and advantages of sub-1 GHz spectrum by other mobile operators, regulators and academics while Telefonica and Vodafone argued that it was not necessary.

Ofcom is of the opinion that sub-1 GHz spectrum would give national wholesalers some advantage relative to those that do not have sub-1 GHz spectrum as sub-1 GHz spectrum is particularly valuable compared to higher frequencies. But just because sub-1 GHz spectrum is valuable or gives advantages does not necessarily mean holding it is a necessary requirement to be capable of being a credible national wholesaler.

Ofcom considered the scale of the advantage that sub-1 GHz spectrum gives to a national wholesaler in a macro cell network compared to 1800 MHz and 2.1 GHz spectrum and other ways that a national wholesaler can provide good quality coverage such as the use of Wi-Fi. Alternative technologies like small cells can be used to deliver services indoor. For e.g. The use of Wi-Fi in particular is widespread and deployments are growing. Wi-Fi is currently extremely important in terms of delivering data to mobile devices, especially in the home. Hence the regulator considers that alternative technologies as an important way for a national wholesaler to provide good quality coverage with higher frequencies in certain circumstances.

Ofcom considers that it may also be possible for a national wholesaler without sub-1 GHz spectrum to partly close the coverage gap by building more macro sites than networks using sub-1 GHz spectrum. National wholesalers can, to a significant extent, make choices between different ways of providing coverage and a different balance between spectrum and network costs. A national wholesaler can invest in the high costs of acquiring or retaining sub-1 GHz spectrum which allows it to provide coverage, economising on network costs in terms of fewer sites for macro cells and small cells.

Equal share of spectrum unnecessary –Ofcom Analysis

Ofcom doesn’t consider that all the four national wholesalers should hold equal shares of spectrum or closed to the same. The reason is that spectrum is not the only way of adding capacity.

The national wholesalers can make choices about the mix between the various different approaches for providing capacity. A national wholesaler can choose whether to invest in spectrum and thereby reduce its network or technology costs of providing capacity or alternatively it could choose to reduce its costs of spectrum and rely to a greater extent on the other approaches to increasing capacity. At the same time Ofcom recognizes that a wholesaler with a very small share of spectrum may not be able to provide an effective constraint on rivals. This is because while there are a number of substitute’s available, spectrum is an important input to capacity. With a small share of spectrum the costs for expanding capacity to serve more consumers or meet increasing expectations of existing customers may be substantially higher than for their competitors. This could give a national wholesaler less incentive to want to win customers, weakening its impact on competition.

In providing capacity in the future the role of small cells is very important. They are most suitable for delivering capacity in relatively small areas of high demand. There is likely to remain a role for macro cells delivering capacity over wide areas to reach locations not in small cells. National wholesalers are therefore likely to want access to a mix of small and macro cells. A national wholesaler with a small market share may be able to deliver the same average data rates as its rivals, even though it has less capacity. However, to act as an effective constraint on rivals, a national wholesaler must have the capacity to increase its market share. A national wholesaler with a very small share of spectrum may not have this capability.

Ofcom also considers what spectrum bands are relevant when considering whether a national wholesaler is capable of being credible. For a national wholesaler to be credible, the spectrum needs to be capable of serving a reasonable range of user devices. If a national wholesaler is not able to provide services to a reasonable range of more sophisticated user devices, like tablets and smartphones, it is unlikely to be credible.

It is also recognized that national wholesalers have some influence over the availability of devices for particular spectrum. They also have some influence over the spectrum that is used by more sophisticated devices like smartphones and tablets.

Ofcom recognizes that when it considers the share of spectrum, the paired 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands are also taken into account. In Europe these bands are mainstream harmonized mobile bands and the regulator believes that in future there will be wide range of devices like HSPA or LTE, for these bands including sophisticated user devices like smartphones and tablets.

Though it has potential to be valuable for providing capacity, Ofcom do not consider that it can rely on other spectrum being available and used in a sufficiently large range of user devices for enabling the credibility of a national wholesaler. This is because there is greater uncertainty concerning either the availability or usefulness or both of those spectrums compared to the paired spectrum in the bands.

It is recognized by the regulator that the share of spectrum is to some extent an imperfect measure. However, in Ofcom’s view a national wholesaler’s share of spectrum is a relevant factor in assessing its capacity to be credible.

It is admitted that Ofcom finds it difficult to identify that the minimum share of spectrum a national wholesaler would need in order to be credible. Ofcom’s conclusion is that there is a material risk that a national wholesaler would not have enough capacity to be credible after the Auction if it has less than 10 – 15% of the total paired spectrum available after the Auction for the provision of mobile service.

The regulator considers that if the spectrum holding of a national wholesaler is less than 10 -15%, greater will be the risk for the national wholesaler to be capable of being credible.

Auction outcomes - competition concerns

Here Ofcom considers in turn each of the four dimensions of quality that it has identified. Ofcom considers the spectrum holdings that are likely to be the necessary minimum requirements for each of the four dimensions and how other or more spectrum might contribute to making a national wholesaler’s spectrum holdings sufficient to enable it to be credible and so exert an effective constraint on its rivals. In both cases Ofcom considers other ways of providing capability other than spectrum.

For a number of reasons this analysis is by nature uncertain. It is concerned with the future capability of technology, the complexity and wide variation of the real world situations in which networks will have to operate and consumer’s preferences and behaviour in the future are by definition unknown. Any decisions Ofcom makes in this regard involve the application of regulatory judgement. Even then it is possible to draw inferences from the available evidence to make such judgements about the future.

Capacity and high average data rates

The term ‘capacity’ in a mobile network can be defined as a network’s ability to supply a given traffic demand at a specified level of quality. Therefore capacity can impact both the number of customers that can be served and the quality of services that can be delivered to them. For a given number of customers, the greater the capacity, the higher the data rates those customers will receive. Alongside this analysis of capacity, Ofcom considers the average data rates also.

Ofcom expects that the growing demand for data service would continue. Hence it is very important for national wholesalers to be able to provide capacity especially in the longer term.

Hence the regulator considers that national wholesalers should have sufficient capacity relative to rivals to serve enough customers with sufficiently high data rates for them to be capable of becoming credible.

Ofcom’s provisional conclusion during the January 2012 Consultation was that there is material risk if a national wholesaler is not having enough capacity to be credible after the Auction if it held less than 10-15% of the total paired spectrum available after the Auction for the provision of mobile services.

There was no dispute in responses with regard to the view that average data rates are important to customers. Responses concentrated on the conclusion on the minimum share of spectrum to be credible. For example, Everything Everywhere opined that the share of spectrum was not relevant and at that time Ofcom did not provide enough evidence to justify its conclusion. Ofcom is concerned with the competition between rivals and as such the relative share of spectrum between competitors become relevant. Ofcom considers that capacity and average data speeds are important factors for competition and spectrum is a key input into capacity.

Methods of delivering capacity

Before considering the share of spectrum directly, Ofcom considers in general terms how capacity can be delivered. Three key factors determine capacity. They are 1) Spectrum – the type and quantity of spectrum allocated to a national wholesaler 2) Topology and network – the number of cells, the mixture of cell sizes and their locations 3) Technology – the cell spectrum efficiency that can be achieved by the given features of a technology.

When it comes to spectrum, there are the prevailing mobile bands already used by national wholesalers, at 900MHz and 1800MHs, and the spectrum in the Auction, at 800MHz and 2.6GHz. Also there are potential future releases including at 700MHz, 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz.

With regard to topology and networks, capacity can be increased by investing in macro cells, (including additional macro cells and other macro cell investment like increased sectorisation), deploying small cells and heterogeneous networks.

According to Ofcom in the future small cells may be particularly important for adding capacity. The cells with a smaller coverage area than conventional macro cells are called Small Cells. They are operated with lower antenna heights and typically lower power. These include Wi-Fi in unlicensed bands and femtocells. As far as some areas are concerned, small cells may be a more cost effective way of adding capacity as these have lower construction cost than macro cells. Heterogeneous networks (or hetnets) enable deployed networks using a mix of different cell types, frequencies, technologies (3G, 4G) and network architectures to be dynamically managed as a single network. This enables management of interference and power levels automatically, enables the network to respond to rapid changes in customer demand, and potentially for the network to make significant performance gains.

With regard to technologies, different technologies can, deliver different levels of capacity and data rates, with a given amount and type of spectrum. Hence the frequency of spectrum held can also have an indirect impact on capacity given that the timing of the technologies that can be deployed can depend on the frequency of spectrum held. By investing in the latest technologies, national wholesalers can add capacity. The best example for this is the refarming of 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum currently used for 2G services to HSPA/LTE.

Auction outcomes might raise competition concerns

As the first step, Ofcom is considering what outcomes from the Auction is going to be detrimental to competition.

Ofcom’s larger competition concern is that if there are fewer than four credible national wholesalers, the intensity of competition in mobile service is likely to be lower. Hence Ofcom focus on what distributions of spectrum could result in fewer than four national wholesalers capable of being credible. This requires identifying a number of dimensions to the capability of a national wholesaler such as the spectrum hold by the wholesalers, how they relate to one another, including the trade-offs between them. Then Ofcom will conclude on what may be necessary for a national wholesaler to be credible and what may contribute to a national wholesaler having sufficient capability to be credible. To arrive at this judgement, Ofcom has to consider the types and quantities of spectrum that a wholesaler need to hold in order to deliver different quality dimensions. The regulator has also to consider whether a national wholesaler has alternative approaches or mitigation techniques to deliver those quality dimensions.

Using this assessment, Ofcom will assess each of the existing national wholesalers whether they are likely to be capable of being credible even if they did not acquire any additional spectrum in the Auction. The fact that what spectrum a new entrant might require may also be considered by the regulator. Where Ofcom conclude that there is concern that each might not be credible, then the regulator will consider what additional spectrum might make them credible. This analysis also helps the regulator to identify the sources of risk for its lesser competition concern, i.e. that competition is weaker because one or more credible national wholesalers may be at a disadvantage in competing for certain service and customer segments.

Dimensions of capability of a national wholesaler

In accordance with the responses to March 2011 Consultation, Ofcom has identified four dimensions of quality of a mobile service to consumers and dimensions of capability to national wholesalers which are affected by spectrum holdings, that could be important to the credibility of a national wholesaler in the future. These are: 1) The capacity of the national wholesaler to provide services and the average data rates it can provide (Whether delivered by UMTS or LTE) 2) the quality of coverage that it can provide 3) whether it can provide the highest peak data rates (using large bandwidths of spectrum with LTE) and 4) whether it can offer services based of LTE technology so that it can gain from other LTE advantages like better latency and the ability to better prioritise traffic.

Taking account of the responses to the January 2012 Consultation relating to these four dimensions, Ofcom has assessed how likely it is that having these capabilities could be important to competition and to consumers. For each of the four dimensions, Ofcom considered the evidence available to it about the extent to which particular spectrum holdings are necessary to have a certain capability or the availability of alternative ways to achieve such capability which are not dependent on a certain type or quantity of spectrum.

The regulator has also considered whether any technical advantages related to holding particular spectrum portfolios are likely to translate into a significant competitive advantage, taking into account the extent to which consumers might value the service characteristics that the capability would allow the national wholesaler to offer.

Though these dimensions of capability were considered separately by Ofcom, it recognized the fact that there can be important interactions between them. When particular portfolios are assessed Ofcom considered the interactions between the dimensions especially between1) capacity and average data rates and 2) quality of coverage.

With each dimension of capability there can also be a time dimension involved because the dimension of capacity may change over time and the national wholesaler’s ability to provide the capability with different spectrum may also change with time.

Minimum components that a national wholesaler should have, if it is to be considered as credible, are mentioned in these four dimensions. But possession of these bare minimum requirements is not sufficient to make a wholesaler credible. To be credible, a national wholesaler should have more capability in at least one dimension.

A national wholesaler must have the minimum four necessary components like capacity and average data rates, quality coverage, other LTE advantages and highest peak data rates to achieve credibility. But this may not be sufficient to make a national wholesaler credible. It should have more capability than this necessary minimum in at least one of the four dimensions.

Ofcom has the view that there is potentially more than one way to achieve credibility. For example one national wholesaler may have the necessary components together with much more than the necessary minimum capability in some dimensions, while another may have the necessary requirements and much more in different dimensions. Alternatively, sufficient overall capability might be achieved through having a little more than the minimum necessary in each of the dimensions. When Ofcom assess this for particular portfolios, it also considers the interactions between the dimensions of capacity.

Another way of seeing this is in terms of risk. If a national wholesaler is not having the necessary minimum capability in any of the four dimensions, it is unlikely to become credible. However, it is not straightforward to specify these necessary minimum requirements with precision. In the light of the available evidence, Ofcom make a judgment in the form of a range rather than a single threshold figure. Considering the element of uncertainty associated with the Judgement, Ofcom consider that if a national wholesaler’s capabilities are towards the weak end of the range that Ofcom identify for the necessary minimum in any of the dimensions, there is a risk that it would not be capable of being credible, and the more dimensions to which this applies, the greater the risk.

Not only that, even if a national wholesaler has the necessary minimum requirements in all dimensions, this may not be sufficient capability to be credible. Having only the necessary minimum capabilities in all dimensions but no strength in capability in any of the dimensions may mean that a national wholesaler is still at risk of not being capable of being credible. This is because a national wholesaler with minimum capability in all dimensions may well struggle to compete against competitors that have either a materially greater capability in one or more key dimensions. Consequently the more capability that a national wholesaler has, the lower will be risk of not capable of being credible.

Ofcom’s credibility involves a relative assessment. The rivals are to be able to compete with one another and for that there must be strong competition. According to Ofcom even if a national wholesaler is disadvantaged in some dimensions relative to its rivals it may be considered as credible. In this case the disadvantages should not be too large or are compensated by sufficient strengths in other quality dimensions. A national wholesaler may even be credible even if it is at a disadvantage when compared with its rivals, provided these disadvantages are not glaring. Ofcom doesn’t want all companies to be equally strong for them to be credible.

Virgin Media Business conducted mobile broadband trials

Virgin Media Business which is the infrastructure provider says that it has successfully conducted small mobile broadband trials based on cell in the two cities of the UK.

It has been claimed that the provider has tested successfully cell-based new mobile broadband technology.

The company says that they achieved the download speeds that are up to three times quicker when compared with the present 3G networks when the test took place in the Bristol and Newcastle cities of the UK.

According to the Virgin Media Business, the small cells offer more robust and faster internet connections in relation to that of existing Wi-Fi or 3G technology.

Mr. Kevin Baughan who is the director of the wireless at the Virgin Media Business told that the company is incredibly delighted to reach at the very vanguard of the access of small cell radio network tests.

He also stated that in the coming future, the cities is going to demand for ever faster internet connectivity as well as with the mobile broadband ready for the explosive development, small cells are providing a way ahead that will boost the challenge in the super fast internet connectivity even on the go.

He also said that the company has gone a step further towards the coming future, where the ubiquitous super fast internet connectivity will become the norm.

MiFi mobile broadband

MiFi are small wireless gadgets that allow many users to share one single broadband internet connection while the users are on the move. It works by establishing a local signal instead of the wireless routers that is utilized by the home broadband providers. MiFi mobile broadband is available for both pay as you go and contract options.

MiFi uses 3G mobile networks in order to establish a mini wireless broadband internet cloud that can be shared among the many 3G supported devices such as laptops, mobile phones, games consoles and netbooks.

The broadband internet signals of the new MiFi devise can be shared easily with around five users. To get the signal one has to be within 10 metres from the device. The MiFi mobile broadband delivers 3G internet connection with the high speeds of about 21Mb which is expected to boost in the future, especially with the next generation 4G networks with super fast speed of about 100Mb.

MiFi was first introduced by the Three and it was followed by Vodafone, Orange and T-mobile.

Easy setup

MiFi can be installed easily by even novice user. One needs to turn on the device and than wait for the PC or laptop to detect its signal. It does not need any type of software to install and it takes only a few seconds to access super fast internet service.

MiFi versus mobile broadband dongles

A dongle will enable the user to access internet service from one device in a time while the MiFi will allow up to five users to use the network signal at the same time. MiFi does not require to be connected to a device in order to access internet. It can be simple placed in the perfect position to get good internet signal.

MiFi can store data

MiFi also enables the user to store important files. It is compatible with the microSD media memory card that can be easily inserted to the MiFi in order to increase the storage space.

Myths of Mobile broadband

Is anyone confused by dongles as well as are not sure of the benefits of the USB modem, then read through t his. In the past few years mobile broadband is the biggest technology which has been understood little. Here is a list of ten most conventional myths of mobile broadband that will clear all the doubts of the users.

Insufficient Download allowances

Though the 1GB offer is around which is actually limiting the users, this is not completely true. At present there are various offers that provide the data usage of 10 GB in a month which is enough for 320 four-minute music tracks; video downloads of 50 half hours, web surfing of 100 hours and 10,000 emails.

Mobile broadband Vs home broadband

The speed test software conducted disclosed that the present speed of the average mobile broadband connection is 7 Mb which is almost similar to the speed of home broadband. However, there are many high-speed home pack is available whereas the most conventional connection is of 8Mb. The mobile broadband customers can also increase their internet speed by just utilizing the particularly designed browser like Opera Turbo at no addition cost.

About mobile broadband laptop package

It is true that purchasing separately a laptop as well as broadband is not costly in relation to other hire/credit purchase offers. Laptop deals are indeed very costly. Various laptop broadband packages are available at the cost of £15 in a month when one can easily reduce the price of the notebook, which is slightly more than that the price of the general dongle offer.

Long contracts

The two year contract was the norm but now the one-month contracts are becoming more common. Those who dislike contract can also opt for the pay-as-you-go deal that is offered by many vendors.

Data charges

Some of the service do not charge extra for the excess data usage on their deals. Other services providers come with online tracking system which will help to avoid the excessive data charges.

One requires MiFi or dongle to receive mobile broadband

Most of the people don’t use MiFi and dongles, currently laptops come pre-installed with the broadband which is common now. However, it will be most conventional way of utilizing the mobile broadband.

Costly overseas usage

The expensive bills for the overseas usages were once the common fixture of the newspaper in the UK, but the internet service providers have reduces the charges heavily.

EU legislation in order to promote tough competition has cut down the costs. The wholesale cap is available at the charge of only1 Euro per MB of download.

Mobile broadband are cheaper

Mobile broadband service is cheaper in relation to the fixed line broadband service only because one does not need pay for the line rental. The line rental is about £11.25 in a month and also extra cost for the broadband. The price of the inexpensive fixed line internet connection is about £17 while it was found out the average cost of a mobile broadband product is only £15.

Portability of mobile broadband

Around 75% users of mobile broadband connects internet at home. When away from the house the consumers with most of the major networks can use the Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, enabling to take the benefit of the free internet connection without limiting the usage allowance. One can also share the connection with other Wi-Fi supported devices. The user will only need to plug the dongle into the mobile wireless router.

About Dongles

Dongles are the small USB devices. The new dongles are the cutting edge to combine both fun and functionality together. It is more than a means to get access to internet and they are used as USB storage devices.

Mobile capex declined despite the upcoming 4G launch

In the second quarter of this year, the expenditure of the capital on the mobile networks has decline in the Western Europe.

According to the ABI Research, the financial expenditures to develop the mobile networks in the Western Europe had declined although the carriers are getting ready for the upcoming launch of the next generation 4G service.

The analyst disclosed that the total network expenditure has declined quarter on quarter from 3% to 9% in just three months by the end of the month June in this year whereas year-on-year development also declined considerably by 19%.

The capital expenditure of T-Mobile in the first half yearly was only 4.9% that is lower in relation to the same period of the last year; Vodafone is also trying to cut down its network expenditure by up to £100 million capital year on year.

Jake Saunders who is the vice president for forecasting at ABI predicted that the capital expenditure by the end of this year is set to decline from 12% to 4 billion as the whole for this year.

He also explained that the carriers in the Western Europe are at the different level of development that will probably impact the adoption plan of 4G.

The sole operator in the UK is ready to rollout the next generation 4G mobile broadband service in this year is Everything Everywhere that is planning to expand the networks across 16 major cities in the coming three months.

SMEs to benefit from new 4G service

It is been claimed that the rollout of the next generation 4G mobile broadband service in the UK will be benefiting the small businesses instead of the vast customer market initially.

The patchy network coverage as well as a great strain of the battery life is going offset most of the positive features of the upcoming 4G mobile broadband service for the general customers who wish to utilize this new technology on the mobile handsets, according to Claranet which is a cloud service provider.

Though the small businesses is more probably to use a fixed 4G-enable router that is capable of offering them effective, fast and cheap connectivity during the event when their main network fails.

Michel Robert who is the UK managing director of Claranet said that Companies will be allowed to seamlessly to switch to a broadband service offered by the mobile spectrum at the part of the price of the dull cable connection. This makes the mobile broadband service more attractive for the small enterprises.

There are high expectations that the rural firms will also get advantage from the 4G service, with the proclamation made by the Olaf Swantee who is the chief executive of EE that the new 4G service will also be deployed in the remote rural areas of Wales, Cornwall and Cumbria by the coming year.

WHSmith launches FREE Wi-Fi

It has been reported that WHSmith, the High Street stationer has partnered with the Cloud to install Wi-Fi in 603 of its stores across the UK. It is said that in the UK there are more than five million registered wireless broadband users for Cloud.

Consumers shopping in high street chain WHSmith are now offered an opportunity to make use of in-store wireless broadband. Now the service has started to roll out and customers will be able to use for free on devices like tablets and smartphones. The Business Development Director at WHSmith, Ian Sanders said that the firm was always looking for a means to increase the shopping experience of its customers.

He said that internet enabled the firm to impart a lot of information like product lists, search functions or in-depth book reviews which were previously not available in-store, to customers. He added that the firm wants to work with Cloud for the benefit of its customers. Apart from an enhanced shopping experience, the firm hopes that the Wi-Fi will help to sell more Kobo e-Readers.

WHSmith said that currently 60 percent of the consumers are using mobile internet for making purchases and out of that 19 per cent use it for comparing prices and reading product reviews. Mr Sanders hopes that the introduction of Wi-Fi services across the stores would benefit both customers and the stationer.

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