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Time to forge ahead with 4G for everyone
Tuesday 02 October 2012 10:00:37 by Andrew Ferguson

The 4G roll-out has been a complex beast, on one side we see the politicians hoping for a handsome dividend from the 800 MHz spectrum freed up as part of the Digital Switchover plus a bonus for the sale of the 2600 MHz spectrum, and on the other hand we have the mobile operators keen not to bankrupt themselves in a fight for bandwidth.

The to and fro of this saw one breakthrough when Everything Everywhere soft launched a 4G service on its existing 1800 MHz spectrum, but last minute agreements have seen the actual ability to buy the service delayed until sometime in October it is believed. Today has Culture Secretary Maria Miller attempting to mediate on a deal where everything will be happy enough and avoid lengthy legal battles.

The most likely result of the meeting between Government, Ofcom and the mobile operators may see the 4G auction being brought forward and Everything Everywhere going ahead to launch its service.

The money raised from the auction will be partly used to mitigate interference between FreeView and the 800 MHz spectrum (£180m will be used for this mitigation), which will mainly be an issue for those close to 4G cell sites or who own an older FreeView set-top box. The amount of money that the auctions will raise is a big unknown, the Labour Party is hoping for enough to kick start a 100,000 property building programme, which seems unlikely, something more like £1bn to £2bn are more likely, which would be enough to offset all the money the Government has set aside for Next Generation Broadband subsidy programmes.

The 4G roll-out, once complete, is meant to offer a 98% coverage figure for the UK, but as with existing 3G and 2G coverage, many are sceptical. We hope that the desire to avoid lengthy legal action does not result in any watering down of the coverage ambitions for 4G. If 4G is to actually offer better broadband coverage than the decade old 3G, we will need a lot more mast sites, and the difference in range performance between 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz means that the operators with devices working in the lowest spectrum will be the ones to choose in rural areas.


Posted by otester over 5 years ago
If Three can reach 20Mbps already via DC-HSPA+ then the sky is the limit, bye bye DSL.
Posted by Saurus over 5 years ago
Indeed, although I'm only able to get 10Mbps at the moment, thats double the rate I can get on my >8mbps where I average 5Mbps and with no line rental costs on 3 Mobile its a bit of a no-brainer.
Posted by Kushan over 5 years ago
You say that, but what is latency like? Don't get me wrong, I think mobile broadband is the future, at least for those that can't get FTTC or cable, but it's not a golden bullet. Then again, if you're not gaming then I guess it's less of an issue?
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
I doubt this will kill off DSL or cable. Wireless suffers from contention with everyone around a mast sharing that mast. In addition your distance from the mast and obstructions between you and the mast (ie;walls) degrades the signal.

I can see hardlines and wireless complementing each other with the hardline WAPs offering public hotspots but death of the hardline? Not likely any time soon.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
(cont'd) time will tell but here's some food for thought:

Great for the casual user but I'm not sure how IPTV will fit into that model.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Not sure we need lots more mast *sites* (or masts even) if the range of 850 MHz 4G vs 2100 MHz 3G does what it should ie 35 vs 15 miles ?
Posted by otester over 5 years ago

Averages about 70ms, will be 40ms on LTE at least according to EE speed tests so far (may be as low as 10ms - US LTE speedtests).


Not for those who live in areas with poor cell coverage but for everyone else which can get a decent Three signal at the moment...

At the moment my parents are debating whether to switch to 3G and ditch the landline, 2Mbps DSL vs 10Mbps+ with Three...
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
do extra mast sites provide capacity or just coverage?

With my 3G "three" dongle I have never had coverage issues but I had lots of congestion issues. The highest speedtest I have got from it is maybe 3-4mbit/sec but average in evening is about 0.2mbit/sec.
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 5 years ago
We internet users are needing more and more bandwidth as we look for quality HD downloads and audio, and unlike satellite TV transmissions, latency is important too. The more or less omnidirectional wireless communication technology of the mobile system presently in use just won't cut the mustard if we aren't going to experience massive contention.

The amount of terrestrial radio bandwidth is finite!
Posted by AspieMum over 5 years ago
At present I can't get 3G, although a lot of my village can, and even the 2G signal is poor and unreliable (at home I mostly use WiFi when accessing the internet on my mobile. My fixed line broadband is only 0.8-1.8MBs (although if you get of this estate broadband speeds are 3-5MBs).
Posted by AspieMum over 5 years ago
If I can still connect all the devices like hand held games systems, such as Nintendo DS, more than one computer at a time, XBox, etc and have a large download limit or unrestricted then to be a better broadband it only needs to be capapble of 2MBs reliably.
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