Friday 2 June 2023

Strategic Investments in 4G Networks have set High Expectations for 5G in The Channel Islands

There are three island territories within the British Isles that are known as Crown Dependencies; these are the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey which make up Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. The Crown Dependencies are not part of the United Kingdom, but are self-governing possessions of the British Crown.

The Channel Islands, located in the English Channel between the UK and France, are a popular tourist destination and a hub for offshore finance. While they may be small in size, the Channel Islands have a thriving mobile market, with a range of operators offering services to locals and visitors alike.

The state of mobile operators in the Channel Islands is generally strong, with reliable coverage and high-speed data services available to residents and visitors. The two main mobile operators are Sure and JT. Both companies offer a range of voice, text, and data services, as well as a variety of plans and packages to suit different needs and budgets. Both Sure and JT, have invested heavily in their network infrastructure and are constantly improving their services to meet the needs of their customers.

Sure, owned by the Batelco Group, offers 2G, 3G, and 4G services across both Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey) and the Isle of Man. They have invested heavily in their network infrastructure to ensure reliable coverage and high speeds. Their 4G mobile network was found to be the fastest for data downloads in both Guernsey and Jersey and averaged more than twice as fast as the other operators in both islands.

JT, previously owned by the Jersey government is now privatized, they also offer 2G, 3G, and 4G services across both Jersey and Guernsey. 

JT has also invested heavily in its network infrastructure and has worked to expand its coverage and improve its services. The company has a reputation for offering competitive pricing and excellent customer service, which has helped it to maintain a significant market share despite the competition from larger operators like Sure.

Airtel-Vodafone is the third mobile phone provider in Jersey and Guernsey and a partnership between Bharti Airtel of India and Vodafone UK. Their coverage is on par with their competitors. 4G/LTE has been started and covers most of the islands now.

Founded in 2007, Airtel-Vodafone claims to have a subscriber base of over 45,000. However Sure are due to acquire Airtel-Vodafone. The acquisition is tipped to bring investment to the Channel Islands, according to Sure's parent company, Bahrain-based telco Batelco. In a press release regarding the matter, Batelco claimed that the merger of the operators would ‘trigger significant investment in the Islands’ digital infrastructure including the introduction of the latest 5G technology to the islands, resulting in the delivery of innovative mobile networks on an accelerated program to provide high-speed gigabit technology’.

As of April 2023 letters have been sent to Ofcom by the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority (JCRA) it recommended that each operator be allocated 2×10MHz of 700MHz spectrum, as well as a contiguous 40MHz block in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band. Notably, frequencies in the latter band are expected to be increased incrementally over the duration of the licence to eventually reach 100MHz, subject to a number of factors, including: effective defragmentation of spectrum in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz range; a 5G service launch within a defined period of Ofcom awarding a spectrum licence and rollout of a minimum stated number of 5G equipped base stations; and demonstrable evidence presented that spectrum already awarded is being efficiently used.

With regards to the JCRA’s specific frequency recommendations, meanwhile, it has suggested that JT be allocated the following spectrum blocks: 713MHz-723MHz/768MHz-778MHz and 3.52GHz-3.56GHz. For Sure, meanwhile, the recommendation is that the operator is awarded the following spectrum blocks: 723MHz-733MHz/778MHz-788MHz and 3.67GHz-3.71GHz.

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