It is no secret that the UK has been slow out of the blocks when it comes to building a 4G network and most people have resigned themselves to waiting up to two more years for the chance to experience the super-fast 4G speeds.
However, in an interesting move, network provider Everything Everywhere (EE) has announced that subject to regulatory approval this spring, it will be in a position to roll out a 4G network in the UK before the end of the year.
Compared to nations like the US, Japan, Germany and Sweden, the UK is trailing far behind in terms of mobile data speeds and with many people complaining about the current state of the 3G network, a working 4G network seems like a distant dream.
Announcing the news, Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE said: “I am very proud to announce that, subject to regulatory approval by the spring, Everything Everywhere will be in a position to begin the roll out of 4G before the end of the year. There is a great opportunity for the UK to have the 21st Century network that it so deserves, putting the nation on a level playing field with other parts of Europe, the USA and Asia.”
So how is EE able to move ahead so quickly? The auction to sell off the airspace needed by mobile providers to provide a 4G netowork (which will be the biggest in the UK's history) has been delayed numerous times and is only likely to take place late this year. However in a bid to side-step this problem, EE has asked Ofcom to let it convert some of its existing 1800MHz spectrum, which is used for voice calls, texts and slower 3G data connections, to 4G.
The UK’s first 4G LTE trial over the 1800MHz spectrum is due to take place in Bristol from April, which, EE says, will provide vital information “on the performance of 4G LTE over its existing 1800Mhz spectrum in both urban and suburban environments.” This trial will complement EE’s existing 4G LTE trial over the 800MHz spectrum taking place in Cornwall.
Back in September last year on a report by Aircom International highlighted the fact that spectrum re-farming such as this could be the answer to the UK's 4G issues and save mobile operators a lot of money in the process.
In a statement, the UK regulator said: “Ofcom has received an application from EE to vary its licence for 4G use. Ofcom is considering that application and once it arrives at a view it will consult with stakeholders." The process could take up to 12 weeks and will involve discussions with interested parties including rival mobile phone networks.
EE has also announced it will complete the roll out of its 3.5G HSPA 21 network by the end of the third quarter of 2012, with 60 per cent of its customers already having access to the faster service. HSPA 21 promises 50 per cent faster downloads and a 100 per cent increase in upload speeds.
EE is also going to begin trials of HSPA 42 in the second quarter of the year, which promises a further speed boost over HSPA 21.