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Three and Vodafone punters in line for faster 4G downloads – thanks to Qualcomm’s L-band sale

Three and Vodafone customers could be enjoying faster downloads thanks to Qualcomm agreeing to flog its ‘L-Band’ radio frequency licences. 

While the L-Band might sound like some sort of gastric implant or an old CBS show, it’s actually the name given to a band of radio frequencies (1452-1492 MHz) which chipset maker Qualcomm owns licences for in the UK. 

Earlier this year, Qualcomm announced plans to sell its L-Band licences to mobile networks in the UK, for the purpose of rolling out something called SDL, short for Supplemental Downlink Link. 

In layman’s terms, this basically means less time spent waiting for Twitter feeds, YouTube and Netflix streams to load. 

Related: What is Cat 6 LTE and how will it benefit everyone on 4G?A Qualcomm spokesperson said: “SDL will enable more downlink centric services, such as video on-demand, to be delivered seamlessly to mobile devices over a cellular data connection, even as data traffic levels continue to increase.”

That was back in June and now Qualcomm UK has announced that it’s found two buyers for its licences. Both networks have agreed to buy 20MHz of L-Band frequencies each.

Devices that can make use of L-Band frequencies won’t be on the market until later in the year at the very earliest. Vodafone intends to use the spectrum for greater indoor coverage as well as faster downloads. 

A Vodafone spokesperson said: “The L-Band spectrum complements Vodafone’s existing low frequency 800MHz spectrum which travels further and penetrates better through walls than other higher frequency 4G signals. 

“Over time, Vodafone intends to combine its newly purchased spectrum with 800MHz using a new technology called 4G+, and also referred to as Carrier Aggregation, to deliver theoretical peak download speeds of up to three times faster than standard 4G.” 

All of this is of course subject to the deals being given the rubber stamp from telecoms regulator Ofcom. A Three spokesperson added: “We will make no further comment until Ofcom has announced the outcome of [its] review process and the transaction has completed.”

At some point early next year, Ofcom intends to auction off sections of the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands, which will supplement the 2.6GHz licences already earmarked for 4G services by BT, Three and Vodafone


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