Six companies have qualified to take part in the upcoming 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum auction, expected to take place in late March.
Ofcom has today announced the companies that have qualified to take part in the upcoming spectrum auction. Ofcom is releasing more airwaves – or spectrum – to improve broadband for today’s mobile users, and to prepare for the roll out of future 5G services. Spectrum in two “bands” will be made available through the auction process, which Ofcom expects to start in late March. The spectrum available in the auction is as follows:
The auction plans , announced last year, had been subject to legal challenge by both Three and BT/EE. The High Court rejected these claims in December 2017, and earlier this month, the Court of Appeal refused Three permission to appeal that decision. Ofcom is now pressing ahead with plans to hold the auction as quickly as possible.
Companies were required to submit applications to take part in the auction on 8 February. Ofcom has assessed each of the applications it received and is today publishing details of the companies that have qualified to take part in the auction. They are:
All qualified applicants now have three days to confirm whether they wish to take part, or withdraw from the process. We will publish the final list of bidders that will be taking part, once this period passes.
Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s Spectrum Group Director, said: “We’re pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible. This will benefit today’s mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G - allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology.”
Ofcom’s auction plans
 When auctioning the spectrum, Ofcom will impose two different restrictions on bidders:
a. A cap of 255 MHz on the “immediately usable” spectrum that any one operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap means BT/EE will not be able to bid for spectrum in the 2.3GHz band.
b. A cap of 340 MHz on the overall amount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction. This cap amounts to 37% of all the mobile spectrum expected to be usable in 2020, which includes not only the spectrum available in this auction but also the 700MHz band.
Cornwall is to host Europe’s first commercial deep-space communications station following an £8.4m investment into Goonhilly Earth Station.
Under a new project announced by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Goonhilly’s 32m diameter GHY-6 antenna will be upgraded to provide deep-space tracking of future missions to the Moon and Mars and satellite communication services.
“There will be more than 50 lunar and deep space missions planned over the next decade and it means our region can participate directly in global space programmes,” said Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP.
Once upgraded, Goonhilly is expected to add to the capabilities of the European Space Agency (ESA)’s worldwide ground station network, which comprises seven core stations supporting over 20 earth, observatory, planetary and exploration spacecraft as well as European launchers.
The investment will see ESA working with Goonhilly to upgrade GHY-6 to meet the performance and technology requirements needed by ESA, NASA and private space exploration companies for deep-space communications, including high bit-rate data links.
Qualifying tests will require the antenna to track several ESA deep-space missions, including the Mars Express spacecraft which has been in orbit around the Red Planet since 2003.
“By the middle 2020s, ESA’s deep space communication needs for current missions, like Gaia and ExoMars, and future missions like BepiColombo, Solar Orbiter and Juice, are projected to exceed the Agency’s current capacity by up to 50 per cent,” said Rolf Densing, ESA’s director of operations. “Upgrading Goonhilly and building up a commercial capability to support future exploration missions is good for ESA, good for European science and industry and excellent value for European taxpayers.”
Separately, the LEP has plans to develop a commercial spaceport at Cornwall Airport Newquay. Small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight from UK spaceports could capture a share of a £10bn global launch opportunity over the next 10 years.
With new spaceflight laws and grant funding announcements expected in the next few months, Cornwall is well prepared to make the most of this opportunity.
According to the UK Space Agency, the global market for space is expected to increase from £155bn per annum to £400bn per annum by 2030. The UK government has set a target of securing 10 per cent of this global space economy by 2030.
The Europe’s nExt generation eMergencY commuNicatiOnS (EMYNOS) project final demonstration took place 31 January in Bucharest, Romania, with the support of Romanian Special Telecommunications Service (STS). After two years of progress, the next-generation emergency communications services was successfully integrated with the legacy emergency system managed by STS.
Next-generation emergency communications components such as rich media, support for persons with disabilities and improved caller location were tested via a variety of uses cases and scenarios including:
• Pure next-generation 1-1-2 (NG 1-1-2) calls with caller location, audio, video, real-time text and sensor data
• Emergency calls from assistive technologies and haptic devices
• Emergency calls over satellite
• NG 1-1-2 calls toward emergency legacy systems
The demonstration involved more than 35 external participants from public authorities, actors of emergency communications services and representatives of the National Deaf Association from Romania.
The results generated as part of EMYNOS are expected to become a starting point for further activities in the context of research, development, integration and testing of next-generation emergency services. In addition, the outcomes of the project should become an incentive to regulators and users to respectively enforce the necessary policies and speed up deployment of such services.
Church spires could be used to boost mobile and broadband signal in rural areas, the Culture Secretary has announced.
Church spires could be used to boost mobile and broadband coverage in rural areas under an agreement between the UK government and the Church of England. The government has committed to achieving good-quality mobile connectivity across the UK by 2022. While the agreement encourages churches to sign up, they will still have to negotiate the usual planning process. Digital analysts welcomed the development but said "the devil would be in the detail". "Getting access to suitable sites, particularly in rural areas, has been a real challenge for mobile operators, so any initiative aimed at improving this will be welcomed by the industry," said Matthew Howett, principal analyst at research firm Assembly.
Guidance set out by the Church and Historic England will ensure that any telecoms infrastructure does not impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches, the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.
Around two-thirds of Anglican churches and parishes in England are in rural areas, often in the heart of their communities, and so are well-placed to tackle problems of poor connectivity. They will be used alongside other church properties and farm buildings to host telecoms infrastructure. Matt Hancock said: "Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country. "This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future, improving people's lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.
Local agreements "What's not clear, though, is what the commercial relationship looks like. There have been many stories of rural landowners effectively holding operators to ransom for access to some sites, which has slowed down rollout and added considerably to the cost." The government said commercial arrangements would be made locally between dioceses or parishes and mobile operators and broadband providers but gave no further details. Two-thirds of Anglican churches are in rural areas and their location at the heart of their communities means they are well-placed to help deliver improved mobile connectivity, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said. Secretary of State Matt Hancock said: "Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country. "This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th Century building can help make Britain fit for the future, improving people's lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas."
'Deplorable' coverage There are already about 120 examples of broadband and mobile services being delivered from parish churches across the country, according to the Church of England.
These take a variety of forms - from wireless transmitters in spires to aerials, satellite dishes and cables. The equipment is used to boost both voice and data coverage.
The Dioceses of Norwich and Chelmsford have been signed up to programmes for at least five years.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, said: "Encouraging churches to improve connectivity will help tackle two of the biggest issues rural areas face - isolation and sustainability. "Our work has significantly improved rural access to high-speed broadband. We know that rural churches in particular have always served as a hub for their communities."
The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James, said using parish churches "creatively" would enhance their value to communities.
According to Ofcom's figures, published in December, 4G coverage - where a signal is available from all four mobile operators - is currently available across 43% of the UK. For calls and text messaging, 70% of the UK can receive a signal from all four operators. At the time, Lord Adonis, the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, urged Ofcom to improve mobile service, which he described as "deplorable".
Hamish Macleod, director of Mobile UK, said: "Mobile UK welcomes this announcement from Government and the Church of England, which emphasises the benefits of mobile connectivity to local communities. "Where there is a need, a suitable building is available and appropriate terms can be agreed, the mobile operators will continue to extend their use of churches to increase mobile coverage and capacity, while respecting the church environment."
Credit: BBC, Standard.
Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) has announced that its eCall wireless communications test platform is the first to be certified by an independent test body.
From 1 April onward, car makers are required to equip new vehicles for sale in the EU with an eCall module. In the event of a serious accident, this automatically sends data to the universal European emergency phone number, 112, to facilitate faster response from medical, police and fire crews.
CETECOM has been officially designated as a technical service for eCall by the German Federal Motor Transport Authority. The independent consulting and testing firm has examined the implementation of the eCall test public safety answering point (PSAP) in R&S’ CMW-KA094 solution and certified it as compliant with the CEN EN 16454:2015 standard.
R&S says its compact system can be used for reproducible end-to-end functional tests and standard-compliant conformance tests of eCall and ERA-Glonass modules (the latter describes the accident emergency response system that uses Russia’s version of GPS, the Global Navigation Satellite System) Car makers and suppliers use these tests to check whether the installed modem properly initiates an emergency call in the event of a motor vehicle accident, correctly acquires the relevant data and sends it via the mobile network, and is able to establish a voice connection to the PSAP.
R&S adds that it is also developing test features for eCall over LTE, and making the corresponding solution fit for testing new vehicle telematics units.
Credit: Rohde & Schwarz
Ofcom has announced plans to go ahead with auctioning spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands despite pending legal action by Three UK.
While the 2.3GHz frequencies can be deployed immediately (after they have been awarded to operators) to improve mobile services for customers, 3.4GHz spectrum can be used for future 5G networks.
Ofcom had planned to hold the auction in autumn 2017 but was delayed by litigation brought by Three and BT/EE.
Earlier last year in July, the regulator said it was going to impose caps on the amount of new spectrum that any single operator could acquire. It proposed a cap of 255MHz on the amount of mobile spectrum that was immediately usable after the auction, and then a total cap of 340MHz per operator on overall mobile spectrum following the sale. This latter cap will mean no company can possess more than 37 per cent of all mobile spectrum.
The operator that will be most affected by this is BT/EE which already holds about 42 per cent of all available spectrum. It argued that the cap limits the extent to which it can expand in the future by seeking to acquire extra frequencies. At the same time, it said rivals will have the chance to win a greater share of the airwaves.
However, Three believes the auction rules are too generous to BT/EE. In its submission to Ofcom during the consultation stage, it argued that BT/EE should not be allowed to hold more than 30 per cent of the total spectrum. While Three was prepared to accept the ultimate figure of 37 per cent, it claimed that the regulator gave BT/EE “considerable leeway and tolerance” to possess more than 37 per cent of the spectrum before it finally had to succumb to the cap.
Following an expedited court process recognising the strong public interest in proceeding with the auction, the High Court upheld Ofcom’s decision and dismissed both claims on 20 December 2017. BT/EE is reportedly no longer pursuing its case, but Three has now applied to the Court of Appeal which has expedited matters and will hear the case on 13 and 14 February 2018.
In a press statement released on 17 January, Ofcom said: “The litigation by Three is continuing to delay access to the spectrum and the benefits to consumers and businesses that can flow from it. We are keen to ensure that we can move as quickly as possible to hold the auction once the judgment of the Court of Appeal has been given.”
As a result, the regulator has decided to go ahead with the auction. It now plans to publish the regulations and guidance for potential bidders on how to take part in the sale on 31 January.
But the formal process of qualifying bidders won’t begin until after the Court of Appeal’s decision is announced, and all parties know whether Ofcom’s decision to impose an overall spectrum cap at 340MHz is upheld.
Credit: Ofcom, Networking+
Public Safety Communication Europe (PSCE) announced that BroadWay was selected by the European Commission and will implement a pre-commercial procurement (PCP) project to develop technologies to enable a pan-European interoperable broadband mobile system for public safety.
A group of 11 buyers from 11 countries will be complemented by a further 49 supporting public-safety organizations. The large group of practitioners and procurers will ensure that the innovative solutions procured fit their needs and complement their national plans for transition to broadband for public protection and disaster response (PPDR).
The project should begin in May, and a presentation will be given at the next PSCE conference in Brussels 23 – 24 May.
BroadWay’s public tender procedure will include broadband pilot systems, showcasing the Europewide cross-organizational and cross-border interoperability in realistic first responder scenarios involving practitioners working together crossing land borders, sea borders and even crossing long-distance borders with transport of first responders per plane to a scene of incident, PSCE President Manfred Blaha said last year.
PSCE seeks to complement stakeholders’ own investments with the European Commission incentive. A PCP doesn’t procure final systems. It intends to challenge industry and researchers to innovatively solve the real problems that public-safety end users face. This includes on-the-ground public-safety practitioner needs, the needs of those operating their communications networks and the importance that government investment should not become locked into 20-year-old systems, Blaha said.
Apple announced that its new operating system, scheduled to be released in the second quarter, will offer support for advanced mobile location (AML). The technology will automatically send a user’s current location when making a call to emergency services in countries where AML is supported.
AML, an open European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) protocol, will be included in iOS 11.3. Belgium announced the launch of AML for Android users 13 July but indicated that iPhone users should download the “112BE” smartphone app because the service is not available to Apple customers.
Last August, the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) called out Apple for not adding AML to iPhones and other Apple devices. British Telecom (BT), EE and HTC first offered AML in 2014 in the United Kingdom to pinpoint the source of 9-9-9 emergency calls from mobile phones to a radius of 30 meters or less.
The developer preview of iOS 11.3 is available to iOS Developer Program members, followed by a public beta preview. iOS 11.3 will be available this spring as a free software update for iPhone 5s and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad fifth generation, iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch sixth generation.
GomSpace, together with The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Singapore Technologies Electronics (ST Electronics), signed a research collaboration agreement to conduct a design study on the implementation of space-based VHF communications for air traffic management (ATM) in the Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR).
The agreement follows a memorandum of understanding (MoU) by the three parties last year to explore the application and deployment of the space-based system.
The space-based VHF communications system involves mounting VHF communications equipment onto a constellation of small low-earth-orbit satellites to enable clear and real-time communications between air traffic controllers and pilots over oceanic airspace. This technology will improve safety and facilitate the safe reduction in separation between aircraft, from the current 80 nautical miles (NM) to potentially 5 NM, in airspace where ground-based VHF communications is not available, increasing ATM capacity and enabling more efficient use of airspace, a statement said.
The implementation of space-based VHF communications in the Singapore FIR will entail a design study phase, a proof-of-concept phase and an operationalization phase. With the collective expertise of CAAS, ST Electronics and GomSpace, the design study is expected to deliver solutions to overcome implementation challenges identified during the preliminary analyses, by defining baseline requirements, developing conceptual designs and conducting simulations.
"We are encouraged by this next milestone toward implementing space-based VHF communications for ATM, which will be a world first, and pave the way for more ground-breaking solutions to safely support the growing air traffic in the region," said Soh Poh Theen, deputy director-general (air navigation services), CAAS.
Kicking off 2018 for Honda (UK) is the launch of the new EU22i, successor to the best-selling EU20i from Honda’s portable inverter generator range. Offering a 10 percent increase in power, plus a range of enhancements to make it more durable and user friendly, it still remains as quiet and almost identical in size and weight to the EU20i, which it replaces.
Using inverter technology, the new EU22i offers electricity clean and stable enough to charge sophisticated devices including laptops, tablets and mobiles, while strong and powerful enough to handle more demanding equipment or act as a back-up.
For emergency and medical professionals the EU22i is more than capable of powering lightweight water pumps, chainsaws, cutting equipment and power tools, as well as bringing vital temporary light to sites in remote areas. It is also ideal for running or charging a wide range of specialist equipment, communications systems and batteries. The new EU22i brings all of this and more in a lightweight, portable and user-friendly package.
Honda’s revered Eco-throttle mode also remains a feature of the EU22i – constantly adjusting engine speed to precisely match electrical output with load – saving fuel, reducing operating noise and extending engine life when maximum output isn’t needed. The ability to seamlessly link the unit to another for extra power through parallel operation is also still possible.
Maximum power output is up by 10 percent to 2.2kW thanks to the all-new four-stroke Honda GXR120 (120cc) engine, operating at a lower speed to the GX100 (100cc) featured in the EU20i, with operating noise a quiet 91db (A), improving fuel economy and increasing operating time up to 8.1 hours on one fill. The new engine also offers improved handling of varying load demand, with faster speed recovery when load increases, and cleaner combustion, which meets stringent Euro5 emissions standards.
Despite the increase in power and capability, the EU22i retains the same dimensions and almost the same weight as the outgoing model. Dry weight is 21.1kg, a negligible 400g up on the original, and with a full tank of fuel just 24.2kg – the same as that of the EU20i. At just 512mm(L) x 290mm(W) and 425mm(H), the lightweight EU22i remains truly portable, with a large carry handle allowing easy handling by one person.
The EU22i is available to buy now at £1249 (inc VAT) – the same as the outgoing model. It comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty for professional users
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