Rating: Most observers see Brits as 4G laggards
There’s been a mixed reaction to yesterday’s [July 24th 2012] announcement by UK telecoms governing body, Ofcom, to plans to finally auction spectrum for use by 4G style networks. [See here]. What most observers seem to have missed is the fact that there’s no compunction to use LTE – the standard favoured by telecoms companies, over WiMAX – which IT orientated suppliers seem to prefer. There’s also no clear guidelines about what Ofcom intends to do about Everything Everywhere’s (EE’s) attempts to use existing 1800 MHz for 4G purposes. Instead Ofcom has hinted very heavily that two internationally recognised parts of the spectrum – 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz will be made available.What is it with the cellular industry? We’ve finally seen an end to the in-fighting between cdmaOne and GSM based networks where both sides agree on using LTE. Well, mostly anyway.
Now we’re looking at LTE handsets potentially having to be at least tri-band, if not quad-band or above.
This will always add to the cost of the handset. But then, how many consumers were ever aware that they own a quad-band GSM handset?
As Thomas Wehmeier, principal analyst for Telco strategy at Informa Telecoms & Media observes, “The auction proposal set out by Ofcom means that the UK will not see 4G LTE services go live until later in 2013 at the earliest, putting UK mobile consumers almost four years behind the world’s leading 4G markets.
To put things in context, 4G adoption in Korea has already reached 17 per cent of mobile users today. By the time the UK takes its first baby steps forward in 2013, it’s reasonable to expect that Korea will have taken a giant leap towards 50 per cent adoption.”
That’s the bad news. So what’s the good news? Well, UK mobile operators and consumers alike will benefit from the fact that 4G in Q3-Q4 2013 will be a more mature technology.
That means a greater range of devices and significantly lower equipment costs due to increasing economies of scale. If we don’t get beyond quad-band, that is.
Wehmeier continues, “Ofcom’s decision to reserve spectrum for a fourth national network operator means that Hutchison 3G is the most likely candidate.
But there are other wildcard options that could also be waiting in the wings and ready to swoop.
The UK largest fixed broadband media players, including BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk, all represent credible, if less likely, alternative bidders.”
Ah, who remebers the days of Japanese bank Nomura, entering the auction for UK 3G spectrum.
GoMobile News does because a colleague of ours advised the Bank on the top price to pay. By co-incidence O2 later claimed that exact figure is what it should have bid and it had overpaid.
Lee Myall, UK director at Interoute, takes a very different slant to Ofcom’s announcement. He believes that the whole cellular industry should focus more on using Wi-fi to offload data from cellular networks.
Myall says, “The industry as a whole needs to be taking responsibility for offloading data wherever it is possible. Using Wi-fi hotspots will not only take the pressure off 4G, but keep consumer phone bills down too.”
Hmm. By contrast, GoMobile News sees 4G as carrying a lot of Wi-fi traffic as 4G enabled mobile device owners utilise their 4G connexion to create a ‘tethered’ Wi-fi hot spot.
All we can say is, hurry up guys. Everybody wants 4G now, not in December 2013.