Ofcom warns of possible mobile data capacity crunch

Rating: Realises that data off-load onto Wi-Fi might help

A fine mess ...

Having already plunged the UK into chaos with its decisions on the spectrum range to be used for 4G networks, the UK comms regulator – Ofcom, has decided to issue dire warnings over future wireless data capacity. It commissioned some research from Real Wireless which has concluded that the UK will need 80 times more capacity in about 18 years (2030) than is currently required. Far more worryingly, however, new data which the body has collected on the UK’s communications infrastructure that more than twice the amount of data (20 million GB) is being consumed over the UK’s mobile networks compared to last year (9 million GB). So it has made noises about data off-load onto Wi-fi.Ofcom has calculated that there are some 16,000 public Wi-Fi access points in the UK.

That figures is pretty low and probably doesn’t take into account schemes such as the one offered by BT whereby their broadband customers can tap into other BT customers’ domestic routers.

However,  Ofcom reckons that around 25 times as much data is downloaded over mobile networks than over Wi-Fi hotspots.

Why? Well, the answer is obvious. Just you try logging into a free Wi-fi service like the good one offered by The Cloud.

It’s still time consuming to get on even when the handset actually remembers you ID and password for the free Wi-fi network.

BBC News, for example, reckons that the solution lies with an initiative called PassPoint which should allow consumers to use one sign-in to join any public Wi-fi network. It might work.

Ofcom’s freshly released Infrastructure Report also shows the proportion of UK premises which aren’t in a 3G Hot spot (so they’re in a ‘not spot’)  has fallen from 1.2 per cent in 2011 to 0.9 per cent currently.

Interestingly the proportion of premises receiving a 3G signal from all mobile operators has increased to 77.3 per cent up from 73.1 per cent in 2011.

Ofcom’s research also produced a number of significant stats – such as the fact the average Brit mobile customer uses 245 MB of data in a month – double that consumed back in 2011.

Ofcom’s other solution to the data crunnch appears to be moving digital terrestrial TV signals around again – although it claims that this will involve a ‘simple re-tune’.

Of course, Ofcom’s CEO, Ed Richards, points out that “We will hold the UK’s largest-ever auction of mobile spectrum for 4G [in 2013].”

What he doesn’t appear to have taken into account is the fact that two operators – EE and 3UK, already have 4G spectrum.

So the bidding for this large chunk of 4G spectrum isn’t going to be very intense, is it? And it very definitely is Ofcom’s fault.

About Tony Dennis

Tony is currently Editor of GoMobile News. He's a veteran telecoms journalist who has previously worked for major printed and online titles. Follow him on Twitter @GoMoTweet.
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