The UK telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, has just published its draft plan for 2012/2013 and as part of its look forward has said a 4G network won’t be “widely available” until 2015.
If its original plans had come to fruition, the auction for the 4G spectum should have taken place already and we could have been looking forward to a 4G network being up and running in time for next year’s Olympics.
As it is, the auction has yet to take place, and whether or not it will even happen during 2012 is up for debate. The delay has come about partly due to delays in the consultation process initiated by Ofcom and partly because some networks are throwing their toys out of the prams in relation to how the auction will work.
The issue centres around Three, which unlike the other major operators (O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere) will probably need some assistance to get its 4G network up-and-running. Three has no spare spectrum available to it which it could re-allocate to 4G, while the others do.
The other networks are complaining that Three should not get what is effectively state-aid, which would give it a competitive advantage. This has caused the auction to be delayed indefinitely and means we won’t be getting a proper 4G network for just over three years.
Ofcom does say that some 4G coverage will be available in 2013 and even more in 2014, but that will be limited to pockets here and there.
By the time the UK’s 4G network rolls out, it could be five years after a similar network became available in the US, Japan and elsewhere. While trials are taking place sporadically around the UK at the moment, it seems as if we’ll have to wait quite a while before we get 4G coverage.