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Friday, April 13, 2007

Wireless VoIP provider Barablu bidding for GSM spectrum

Apparently, Barablu, a WiFi-oriented mobile VoIP provider, has been named by Ofcom as one of only two eligible bidders for a slice of GSM spectrum in Northern Ireland.

Now, I haven't delved into the details of that spectrum award, but I wonder if this is a similar pitch to Truphone's in the UK - get recognised as a "mobile operator", get a cellular number range.... but don't build a cellular network. Instead, just use WiFi wherever possible, and benefit from the inbound interconnect fees levied on other operators for terminating calls on those mobile numbers.

Obviously this would only work if there was some pretty lax definitions of both the coverage requirements of the licence, and the interconnect regime for calls to mobile numbers terminating via non-cellular mechanisms.

On the other hand, maybe they do want to deploy a proper cellular network, or a femto/picocell-based one.

2 comments:

Martin said...

Hi Dean. Mobile phone numbers in the UK are already 'RAN technology agnostic'. There are a number of VoWiFi operators with UK mobile 07x numbers, such as Coulomb. You don't need GSM spectrum to operate a mobile service, although in some respects it helps.

Dean Bubley said...

Martin

Thanks - I hadn't heard of Coulomb. I knew Truphone has taken that route, though.

However, I'm wondering if there might be some future challenges to Ofcom's recognition of these companies as "mobile" operators when they're basically in it for the tariff arbitrage opportunity.

Getting some cheap spectrum (even if it was left unused, or only deployed in some areas) could be a bargaining tool. I can also think of a couple of other interesting options as well....