Rating: Is it a level playing field though?
Olaf Swantee, CEO with Everything Everywhere (the combination of T-Mobile UK and France Telecom’s Orange UK) made a very impassioned plea to the powers-that-be in the UK to let his network start offering 4G services over its existing spectrum allocation. This was at the launch of the DigiWorld 2012 Yearbook in London. He made a very forceful argument that the status quo leaves the UK trailing miles behind other developed economies. It is so easy to feel sympathetic with Mr Swantee when the UK has traditionally led the world in the telecommunications high tech stakes. However, there’s the minor issue of level playing fields.Everything Everywhere makes no secret of the fact that it wants to operate 4G services (using LTE technology) over the 1800 MHz spectrum band.
This makes complete sense if you look at the whole problem logically. Globally there are already around 20 mobile network operators worldwide who have chosen to implement 4G capable networks over 1800 MHz spectrum.
On paper this gives Everything Everywhere a real boost. The snag is that the biggest market for 4G devices at present has been created in the USA by leading operator, Verizon.
And Verizon certainly doesn’t use the 1800 MHz spectrum. So in terms of demand for 4G devices, the 1800 MHz spectrum proposed by Everything Everywhere doesn’t have much of a following.
Mr Swantee is totally correct. There is a huge unlocked demand in the UK for 4G style connexions along with their associated high data throughputs.
The major snag is that Swantee’s approach risks fragmenting the mobile data market. Plus there’s a tremendous precedent here.
Rewind to 2G and in North America when there were at least four standards vying for market share in the mobile/cellular network. None of the handsets sold were multi-network.
In other words, you bought a 2G device for one particular network that didn’t work on the other three network types.
So, fast forward to Swantee’s Britain. His company will be selling devices that don’t work on the other 4G networks which other mobile operators roll out.
Now GoMobile News is fully conversant with the fact that you can build a 4G device which will support all of the world’s different 4G spectrum allocations.
The chips inside 4G devices would be able to handle all of the frequencies used worldwide but will manufacturers feel duty bound to implement the necessary receivers so that a device works on all possible 4G works?
The answer is probably not. At the height of 2G’s dominance it was technically possible to build a handset which would have ‘roamed’ onto Japanese 2G networks.
Did this happen? Of course, not. The number of European handset owners who would have wanted to use their existing handset on a visit to Japan was minuscule.
So such devices were never introduced into North Aerican and European markets. Now fast forward to 4G devices in the UK.
Who would add additional cost to their 4G devices by adding support for mulitiple frequencies when the demand is almost non-existent? No-one.
But the real issue here is nothing to do with competitive pressures. If Everything Everywhere gets its way, it will leap-frog the opposition.
Rival networks’ objection to this has nothing to do with innovation. It has to do with a level playing field and playing by the rules.
For years, the UK government has said that it will auction off the requisite frequencies for 4G after the digital switch-over.
So Everything Everywhere’s rivals have been working to that agenda. They haven’t got plans in place to operate 4G at 1800 MHz because it wasn’t suggested as a UK route to 4G.
If the UK watchdog (Ofcom) wants to give in and allow 4G at 1800 MHz, then fine. But it will have to give notice to the other operators that it has drastically changed its mind.
Giving everyone 12 months warning for 4G at 1800 MHz then is fine.But you’d still need to address the problem of why Everything Everywhere thinks 1800 MHz is great.
It’s got loads of spare capacity since it is combining two separate networks which both operated at 1800 MHz.
If you suggest to the company that 4G at 1800 MHz in the UK is fine as long as it disposes of the equivalent of one network’s 1800 MHz capacity, then it will definitely go off the idea.
Personally, GoMobile News predicts that money talks. You can’t ask big bucks for 4G spectrum when one player has already got if for free.
So while the UK government favours 4G as a delivery mechanism for high speed Internet, it won’t cave in.
The chance to get big bucks for 4G spectrum in these harsh economic times is to appealing for the UK government to waver.