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(ARCHIVED) 2.1 GHz 3G cellular spectrum caps reviews

When radio spectrum management rights in the 2.1 GHz band were allocated for third generation (‘3G’) cellular services in 2000-2001, the rights had spectrum caps (sometimes called ‘acquisition limits’) placed on them.

The caps were designed to facilitate ‘effective and workable competition in the supply of third generation cellular services’ by preventing any one entity from gaining rights to more than a certain amount of the band. The caps are set in deeds between the Crown and management rights owners.

Rights in this band were allocated as either:

  • Paired spectrum blocks suitable for frequency division duplex (FDD) use by cellular networks, covering the range 1920-1980MHz and its pair 2110-2170 MHz, or
  • Unpaired spectrum blocks suitable for time division duplex (TDD) use, such as by fixed wireless broadband networks, covering the range 2010-2025 MHz.

Different caps were applied to TDD and FDD blocks. The FDD caps were initially set at 2x15 MHz (a total of 2x60 MHz spectrum was available in the cellular FDD band). The TDD caps were set at 5 MHz (a total of 15 MHz was available in the TDD band).

The caps were set for a three year period and were reviewed in 2004 and subsequently every three years.

In 2004 and 2007 the caps were extended for a further three years.

In 2010, the FDD caps were relaxed to 2x25 MHz and extended for another three years. The caps on TDD spectrum (i.e. non-cellular spectrum), in which technology had not been deployed, were allowed to expire.

In 2013, the government considered that it was appropriate to extend the caps until after the 700 MHz auction was completed, given the market uncertainty around investment additional spectrum.

In 2014, the caps were reviewed again and were allowed to expire.


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Documents relating to the most recent reviews of these caps are available below.

Last updated 7 September 2015

Frequency division duplex (FDD) is a wireless communication technique where different frequencies are used for uplink (from a mobile to a base station) and downlink (from a base station to a mobile), which allows simultaneous transmission and reception.

Time division duplex (TDD) is a wireless communication technique where transmission and reception are separated by time, where there is a time period for transmitting and a time period for receiving.