Mobile phone giant fast forwards to 4G Future

In a surprise announcement, mobile phone giant Everything Everywhere looks to steal a march on the competition by rolling out 4G technology to allow super-fast internet browsing on the move, according to reports from Channel 4 news.

The UK’s largest network, Everything Everywhere, a joint company running the T-Mobile and Orange networks, will ask regulators for permission to provide 4G by the end of the year, writes Geoff White.

The next-generation transmission technology promises superfast internet browsing on the move, with connection speeds of up to 20 megabits per second, much faster than the current average home broadband speed of 7.6 Mbps, and a quantum leap from the current 3G mobile connection, which averages around 1.4Mbps.

The company has already trialled the technology in Cornwall, and will hold another trial in Bristol from April. It intends a “small scale launch” nationwide, subject to approval by the media regulator Ofcom.

Everything Everywhere is reaping the benefit of scale; the combination of two large networks into one huge company – EE has 27 million subscribers – has allowed the two networks to share mast sites and other infrastructure. That means it has spare capacity to begin rolling out 4G services.

But with only a limited number of 4G phones currently in circulation the initial 4G offering will instead be for dongles – devices which slot into laptops and tablets and offer internet browsing on the move.

There are also questions as to how well the technology will perform on a national level. Trials in limited geographical areas struggle to replicate the complex demands on a network at national level.

The Government is committed to souping up the nation’s broadband speeds; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport wants to have Europe’s best broadband network by 2015, although the definition of “best” remains unclear.

Everything Everywhere’s announcement is a step towards this goal, but it will not welcomed by everyone, everywhere. A row brewing between the mobile networks as to how 4G rollout will be handled is partly to blame for delaying the process.

Providing 4G connection means allocating spectrum to it. That spectrum will come partly from the spare capacity freed up as the old analogue TV signal is shut down. Once the spectrum becomes available it will be auctioned off – and that’s where the arguing between mobile networks starts.

The Three network claims it is at a disadvantage compared to other rivals, because it has no spectrum in the 2G band, and claims the other networks are able to reallocate their 2G spectrum for 4G. Ofcom is looking at controlling the auction of spectrum to protect Three – something which has angered the other networks.

Such was the din that the Commons Media Committee in December called for an end to the in-fighting so the 4G auction could begin as soon as possible.

By moving ahead in such a bold way Everything Everywhere threatens to reignite this row. Now all eyes will be on Ofcom as it steers a path through such choppy waters.

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