Ofcom is considering proposals to use parts of the radio spectrum currently used for older mobile services to run 4G, in a bid boost high-speed mobile access in the UK.
The move follows requests from Vodafone and 3 to run 4G mobile services over the airwaves they use for existing mobile services.
The move would allow mobile operators to pipe 4G services over parts of the radio spectrum that, on their networks, are reserved for earlier generations of mobile technology.
Currently EE is the the only UK operator that can run 4G services over those parts of the radio spectrum.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has started a public consultation exercise on the proposal that runs until 29 March.
Ofcom is currently running an auction to sell off unused airwaves that can support 4G services.
“This will meet a long standing objective to liberalise all mobile licences so that there are no regulatory barriers to the deployment of the latest available mobile technology,” Ofcom said in a statement.
On 23 January, the UK operators began bidding in an auction that will decide how new spectrum to support 4G is shared out. The auction was originally supposed to take place in 2012.
Matthew Howett, an analyst at market research firm Ovum, said Ofcom’s consultation was welcome, but he questioned whether it would help operators launch 4G services quicker.
Most would be unlikely to use the spectrum they already own for those services in the “short term”, he said,
“They would first need to be cleared of their existing use through a process of refarming that would probably take years rather than months,” he said. “So the spectrum that is currently being auctioned by Ofcom will most likely be used for Vodafone, O2 and Three’s initial deployment of 4G services.”