Following the news that Everything Everywhere was given the go-ahead by Ofcom to set up the UK’s first commercial 4G network, it looks like we’re finally going to catch up with the millions of 4G users in other countries including the United States, Australia and Korea, who already enjoy the super-fast speeds that 4G offers.
The move which has been regarded as highly controversial, will see Everything Everywhere, which was created when T-Mobile and Orange merged back in 2010 and is owned jointly by both Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom being given what is widely regarded as an uncompetitive head start to offer 4G services.
This news is going to be welcomed by phone manufacturers including HTC, Nokia and Samsung who are already selling this technology in their phones in other areas of the world and it looks like owners in the UK will now get a chance to explore the technology too, which will undoubtedly see a rapid rollout of their phones in line with the expected launch of 4G in October this year.
For those that were looking at investing in the new iPhone 5 which is expected to be released for sale in September, it looks like you’ll now be able to use its predicted 4G capability, unlike the iPad 3, which owners have been unable to use. For phone manufacturers though, things are not quite as simple as you might expect, as the phones that they manufacture cannot be the same for both the UK and other 4G markets, as the frequencies that the phones operate on differ and as a result different radio micro-chips are required.
The difference that 4G will offer will be easily noticeable, offering speeds as fast if not faster than those you’d experience through your home broadband; up to 20 megabits per second, which is up to ten times the speed of current 3G networks. This will be great news for its users, resulting in faster web-browsing and data steaming; allowing an album to be downloaded in as little as sixty seconds or a film download taking only ten minutes compared to over one hour using 3G.
The 4G network is called LTE which stands for Long-Term Evolution and it is hoped that over the next few years we will be able to experience speeds of up to 300 megabits per second as further investment is made into mobile masts and software.
The 4G technology has been trialled in recent months in both central London and Cornwall which has required some households to be the first to experience the new service and test it out using a range of tablets, laptop dongles and smartphones. These initial users will have experienced 4G at its best as the speeds will slow down once it is available to the rest of the population and the network becomes more crowded with users. The data speeds will still be ideal for watching iPlayer or for online gaming; both of which can become unreliable and jumpy when using current networks.
It is thought that Everything Everywhere has been singled out and given the go ahead due to the fact that it has been preparing for 4G for some time and it is ready to roll out the network in certain areas, including the major cities almost immediately.
The other mobile phone companies will now have to wait until Ofcom auctions off other parts of the airwave spectrum, news which has left both Vodaphone and 02 dismayed. Vodaphone released a statement saying that they were:
“Frankly shocked” and that “the regulator has shown a careless disregard for the best interests of consumers, businesses and the wider economy through its refusal to properly regard the competitive distortion created by allowing one operator to run services before the ground has been laid for a fully competitive 4G market."
O2 released a similar statement confirming that they were also:
"Hugely disappointed” with a decision that "will mean the majority of consumers will be excluded from the first wave of digital services. This decision undermines the competitive environment for 4G in the UK."
In response to these attacks by both Vodaphone and O2, Ofcom responded to the industry and commented that it had:
"Conducted a thorough assessment of how this is likely to affect consumers. The evidence shows that they stand to gain significantly more from the early introduction of 4G, than delaying it….the evidence also suggests that it is unlikely to result in any long-term distortion of competition."
Irrespective of this the news for consumers in the longer term is still good, as it has been predicted that by 2015, 98% of the UK’s population will be able to access the 4G network, which is in line with achieving the Government’s targets for both national and in particular rural coverage.