Ofcom has decided to vary the licence that governs what Everything Everywhere can do with the wireless spectrum it owns at 1800 MHz. In the interest of the consumer the firm is to be allowed to deploy LTE and WiMAX on its network from 11th September 2012.
The consultation has been lengthy, and competitors obviously raised objections that this move will give Orange and T-Mobile an early lead in the market place, until the 4G auctions by Ofcom actually conclude. Ofcom did some analysis and while this relaxation for Everything Everywhere will give them an early lead, they concluded that once other networks deploy their 4G systems things will rapidly level out. This is in part because the spectrum available to Everything Everywhere is just half of what is available in the auction at the 800 MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands.
We can now expect Orange and T-Mobile to start marketing 4G dongles ahead of the roll-out, so that as soon as masts are switched on users can benefit. The long term question is whether 4G will simply turn into another race to congestion, which is what 3G turned out to be.
The level of demand for 4G services will depend initially on the price, but competition after the 4G auction is likely to drive this down, and if demand is high it will increase the pressure for the release of the 700 MHz spectrum, which can only be achieved by squeezing the Freeview TV signal. The integration of IPTV into Freeview set-top boxes is part of this longer term plan, and as an IP delivered video stream at 2 Mbps can produce a better picture than Freeview currently delivers and support many more HD channels, the shrinking of over the air Freeview to the core 6-8 channels seems certain.