4G, the natural mobile data successor to 3G, is coming quicker than we thought. Thanks to Orange and T-Mobile, 4G could be available for dongles by the end of 2012, with upgrades to phones and tablets shortly afterwards.
Ofcom’s decision to commit to 4G early has come as a shock to some people. While it’s great news for the consumer, with up to 20mbs available for portable devices, the constant delays of 4G’s integration in the UK has meant that the networks have already started a bidding war for what frequencies they will be able to use.
The frequencies are 800MHz (which was liberated from the analogue TV signal), 2.6GHz and 1800MHz. While the first two are going to be sold off in auction, it’s the latter frequency that is coming under controversy.
Everything Everything, the parent company of Orange/T-Mobile, has asked if it can re-purpose the large amount of 1800MHz (which is currently used for voice and calls) available for use of 4G, because they are the only phone company that can do this. O2 and Vodafone, for instance, have very little 1800MHz coverage, so is used purely for voice and calls.
So, of course, the other companies have slated the decision by Ofcom to allow EE to potentially be the lingua franca of 4G technology. The auction for the available spectrums previously mentioned will occur after EE will start rolling out their super-speed networks, leading to an early domination of the market.
The ‘shocking’ decision by Ofcom (as has been told by Vodafone) has been given the all clear, and is confirmed for the end of the year. 3, the ‘fastest growing mobile network’, is bidding for a chunk of EE’s 1800MHz frequency, which will only add to the controversy as they will also be able to hold a share in the 4G market before other competitors.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. While 1800MHz will provide the greatest speeds, the other frequencies are much more widely available. So while they may not be able to reach the fabled 20mbs, their version of 4G will be on a lot more handsets, which in turn, will make them cheaper to stock.
There are only a couple of downsides for consumers, too. The monopolization of EE in the early stages of 4G would mean there won’t be many handsets that contain the mythical speeds, and when the other networks do become available, multiple handset syndrome will rear it’s ugly head again. So, there may be delays getting the Samsung Galaxy S4 on O2, for instance, if it has been available on EE for months. There are also fears that the iPhone 5 may not contain the technology enabling 4G, which will severely dent the popularity of the service.
All in all, it’s still great news for us, as we have the option to upgrade to 4G sooner than we imagined. We just have to accept that it won’t be as easy as we hoped it would be.
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