Transfer of 2G spectrum

iPhone

The introduction of 4G was delayed due to the Guernsey government assessing whether they could charge

From the middle of next year three companies in the Channel Islands are likely to start offering 4G (LTE) mobile services. This is good news as 4G can deliver so much more than just the promised speed.

For various reasons the islands are a few years behind in 4G roll-out, but that isn’t necessarily bad as being late often allows you to learn from the mistakes of early adopters.

One thing the regulator has imposed on the companies (JT Global, Sure and Airtel-Vodafone) is a requirement to guarantee 95% coverage at a minimum data rate of 2Mb/s.

There are also other requirements around avoiding “bill shock” while roaming (maximum per mb pricing, caps…) all backed by the chance of financial penalties.

I reported all of this in the BBC News article, but by virtue of writing for a mainstream audience it had to be less detailed and geeky than I’d do for a technology audience.

There are some elements of the licence agreement that are actually more interesting that I couldn’t report.

For example, the incumbent operators in each island (JT Global in Jersey and Sure in Guernsey) will be expected to give up some of their abundant 2G spectrum.

Michael Byrne, Chief Executive of the Channel Islands Competition Regulatory Authorities (CICRA) said this was to balance the fact that there was only so much 4G spectrum to go around and what they had fit for the three existing operators.

He said: “The operators that have benefited from being around for a long time, they have vast amounts of spectrum that is very valuable and we think they have more than they need.

“We think that could be used by competing operators and that is what we will make available.”

He didn’t explain exactly how that would work or who would get the spectrum, but one company likely to look into the prospect is Clear Mobitel.

They have a licence to operate telecom services and originally pitched themselves as a 4G provider.

The delay obviously caused problems for them but they wanted to offer 4G as an alternative to home broadband – something YTel have been doing with their Wimax spectrum.

Time will tell. It will be interesting to see what impact the introduction of wholesale fixed line rental will have on the island telecom sector – from June 2015 operators will be able to offer true tipple (or quad play) products with fixed line, broadband, mobile and possibly television.