December 21, 2012

4G Licences – Why Do BT, MLL and HKT UK Want One

4G Landscape

The UK’s 4G auction is well underway and we already know who the successful applicants are as Ofcom listed them this week. There are 7 4G Licence bidders in total and these are Everything Everywhere ( EE ), Vodafone, O2, Three, MLL Telecom, HKT UK ( a subsidiary of PCCW Limited ) and Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc ).

Of course we all know Vodafone, O2 and Three and we may already heard of EE ( which owns Orange and T-Mobile ) as they recently launched 4G ahead of the auction after a concession was granted to them from Ofcom to launch 4G in some old 2G spectrum the company owned.

The names we have likely not heard of who applied for a 4G Licence ( and paid a non-refundable £100K ) are MLL Telecom, HKT UK and Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited. 4G.co.uk have done some digging around to find out some more.

4G Licence Applicant – PCCW / HKT

4G.co.uk are aware of PCCW / HKT as they are a leading mobile operator in Hong Kong. The bit we have never realised before is that they are the owners of a company called UK Broadband in London and 4G has heard of these for sure.

UK Broadband actually launched a 4G LTE network before EE but its not a 4G mobile network company but a 4G Mobile Broadband service. UK Broadband provide businesses and homes with mobile internet at 4G download speeds. The service is branded as Now Broadband.

UK Broadband has it’s 4G LTE broadband service up and running in Swindon, Reading and Southwalk with plans to launch in many other areas. The 4G LTE service is “piped” wirelessly into businesses and homes and connects to a router. The company specialises in designing, developing and installing “bespoke” 4G LTE networks in villages, towns, cities, business parks and even universities.

Our conclusion is that UK Broadband will have bid for one or a number of 4G frequency slices but in which band we can’t speculate but this a company that could potentially offer full 4G Mobile services on a regional basis e.g. Swindon or simply be wanting more bandwidth to deliver their Now Broadband service ( i.e. 4G LTE mobile broadband ). Please note this is totally unconfirmed and is pure speculation.

4G Licence Applicant – MLL Telecom

4G.co.uk know of MLL Telecom as they have been in the Telecom business for some 20 years and are based in Marlow, Bucks. They are mainly involved in designing, installing, managing and maintaining backhaul links and wide area networks. These are the guys who help mobile operators like Vodafone get your mobile signal to your phone via their backhaul networks ( e.g. from the internet to the network of UK mobile masts ). They have been approved by Ofcom to provide microlink networks in the 32GHz & 40GHz.

MLL Telecom are likely wanting a 4G Licence to bolster their backhaul capabilities as part of an on-going plan to maintain its current position as a leader of backhaul services. However, another key reason is that they have plans to offer LTE Microwave Backhaul links and these will offer higher capacity microwave backhaul links with an uptime of over 99.999%.

Our conclusion is that MLL Telecom will have bid for one or a number of 4G frequency slices in the 2.6GHz frequency band. Please note this is totally unconfirmed and is pure speculation.

4G Licence Applicant – BT

BT have made an application for a 4G Licence via its Niche Spectrum Ventures subsidiary who 4G.co.uk have never heard of before and can’t find any details about them on the internet at all. However, some detective work shows their company name as Niche Spectrum Ventures Ltd. and they are based within BT Group Headquarters in Newman Street, London.

BT have previously stated they have no plans to launch any form of mobile network and we feel their interest is more akin to offering 4G Mobile Broadband services to complement their current broadband services. BT are already hooked up with EE ( the only 4G mobile operator currently in the UK ) as they supply free Wi-Fi to all 4GEE customers and also conducted a joint 4G trial with EE in Cornwall earlier this year.

4G.co.uk feel BT’s 4G Licence application is all about offering 4G Mobile Broadband services to its customers and this may be particularly relevant for rural areas of the UK.

Our conclusion is that BT will have bid for one or a number of 4G frequency slices in the 800Hz frequency band – as this offers better long distance coverage. Please note this is totally unconfirmed and is pure speculation.