3.5G Britain may move superfast to 4G
As we have already reported here, the UK mobile network operators are due to meet Maria Miller, the UK’s new Culture sector – along with Ed Richards from Ofcom (the UK’s telecoms watchdog) to discuss the mess that is Britain’s 4G roll-out. What most observers have failed to take into account will be the pivotal role played by Apple’s infamous smartphone – the iPhone 5. As far as GoMobile News can work out, the version of the iPhone 5 being sold in the UK offers support for only three 4G bands. Hence, there’s very little point in letting operators run 4G services at other frequencies, if they can’t sell the market’s leading smartphone. So our contention is that the UK operators will be pushing Ofcom to force EE (formerly Everything Everywhere) to bring forward its planned divestment of some 1800 MHz spectrum.
Our source for the contention that the iPhone 5 being sold in Britain only supports Band 1, 3 & 5 is a nice article which appears on CNET here.
Now if you want to work out exactly which frequencies Bands 1,3 and 5 operate at, you can read a really detailed article from RFMD here.
This shows that Band 1 is 1920 – 1980 2110 – 2170 MHz; Band 3 is 1710 – 1785 1805 – 1880 MHz; and Band 5 is 824 – 849 869 – 894 MHz.
Now the UK’s forthcoming 4G spectrum auction will sell airwaves in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz band.
So it is possible that if 3UK, O2 and Vodafone land some spectrum, then the iPhone 5 could run in Band 5 mode.
The snag is that even if the auction does indeed take place in December , even with the best will in the world, we can’t see the likes of O2 and Vodafone going commercial with a 4G service at 800 MHz for at least 12 months.
Given that EE looks ready to launch 4G in Band 3 by October 23rd , that means it will have a year’s first mover advantage.
So logically, the other three operators have got to get their hands on 1800 MHz spectrum.
Curiously, 3UK has already done so but EE isn’t obliged to release the spectrum it has sold to 3K for at least a year.
Hence, we reckon the operators will urge Ofcom to release the 1800 MHz spectrum it is due to divest immediately.
If you read this document written by Vodafone and posted on the Ofcom web site, you’ll find that it mentions that EE doesn’t have to divest itself of a second tranche of 1800 MHz spectrum until 2015.
The obvious thing to do, therefore, is to urge Ofcom’s Ed Richards to force EE to give up these two tranches very quickly indeed.
Now there are rumours that other existing spectrum could be used by the existing operators for 4G. One of the most off-the-wall options is TDD at 1800 MHz.
Sounds crazy but O2, Vodafone and Orange tested TDD out for a mobile TV experiment called IMB. That’s dead.
The point is that a company called UK Broadband already started providing commercial 4G mobile broadband services in London back in February .
What is UKB’s technology? Step forward TD-LTE in the 3.5 GHz frequency range. So TDD is an option.