UK communications regulator Ofcom has agreed to allow 3G mobile data services to encroach on spectrum originally allocated purely for 2G voice and SMS traffic - paving the way to improved coverage and enhanced speeds.
The organisation has waived a covenant on spectrum holdings licensed to mobile networks in the 1990s that originally specified that the frequencies were to be used purely for the provision of 2G services, including voice and SMS traffic. Now, those portions of the spectrum are open for 3G services as well.
It's an important step in improving access to 3G data services in rural areas and in buildings across the country: existing 3G licences use only a small portion of the total spectrum allocated for mobile phone use, and accordingly have less coverage and are more sensitive to interference.
By allowing mobile networks to extend their 3G services into spectrum originally allocated for 2G services, the overall coverage and signal quality should improve dramatically.
Speaking of the decision to remove the usage restriction on the spectrum allocations, Ofcom stated: "This spectrum could in future be used to meet the growing demand from smart-phone devices and the like for 3G services."
The key here is, of course, 'in future'. Sadly, it could be a while before we see mobile networks coming up with the investment required to make use of the expanded 3G spectrum.