Vodafone is first operator to take advantage of spectrum sharing rules

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Vodafone has become the first UK mobile operator to take advantage of new spectrum sharing regulations to help improve rural coverage.

As part of a three-year agreement, the operator will give StrattoOpencell permission to use the 2.6GHz band in some rural areas. This will allow StrattoOpencell to offer 4G-powered high speed mobile broadband services with speeds of up to 120Mbps in parts of the country that are not connected to fibre. A holiday park in Devon will be the first location to benefit from the service.

The 2.6GHz band is prized for its high capacity and Vodafone will continue to use the frequencies in densely populated areas like cities and public venues.

Vodafone spectrum sharing

“We are delighted to become the first mobile company in the UK to share some of our spectrum to extend rural coverage,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffrey. “By offering some of our 4G spectrum to StrattoOpencell, we are helping to extend fast and reliable mobile network access for people in rural communities. Mobile connectivity in rural areas is just as important as it is for those in towns and cities, which is why we continue to work with others to help improve rural connectivity for all.”

The agreement is possible because of changes made by Ofcom earlier this year. Although mobile operators hold licenses to some of these airwaves, they do not make use of them in parts of the country. Where an operator is not making use of the spectrum, Ofcom wants to see the potential realised.

Any party wanting to take advantage of the new regulations needs to submit an application to the regulator with details of the band, location, bandwidth and power required. Ofcom will then assess the potential for interference with other users of the spectrum and grant a licence based on a per-area or per-base station basis.

“Our new sharing approach aims to help more people access the airwaves they need to create local networks around the UK, including improving connections in rural areas,” added Philip Marnick, group director of Specturm at Ofcom. “Vodafone and StrattoOpencell are the first to take advantage of this. We look forward to seeing how others use our new spectrum access approach to support innovation and enable local communities to have better connections.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.