Auction now set for 2012/13 followed by ‘wide’ 4G availability in 2015
The telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, has stated that the rollout of the next generation 4G mobile network may not occur until 2015, putting the UK four years behind the US, Germany and South Korea.
Ofcom released the note as part of its draft annual plan for 2012/13, stating that it expects ‘roll-out of 4G mobile services during 2013/14 and wide availability by 2015.’
The hold up is from the auction of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz radio spectrum bands, which were once used to broadcast analogue TV, will now be awarded by 2012/13. It was originally due to occur this year, and it had been expected next year at the latest.
Britain’s telcos have been warring over the spectrum, with smaller operators such as Hutchinson’s Three Mobile network demanding that Ofcom place limits on the spectrum available to its larger competitors, fearing they will be outbid and closed out of the next-gen market.
Note that this is a draft annual plan, and could be subject to change for better or for worse.
The US, South Korea and some Scandinavian countries are already offering 4G/LTE services, and the first 4G mobile phones are due in early 2012.
Germany has completed its spectrum auction, earning the government €4.4bn, and German telcos are already beginning to rollout 4G networks. France’s radio spectrum auction is currently under way.
Ofcom seems to be focusing on ensuring the current, already overloaded 2G and 3G networks are stable for the Olympics, a justifiable enough goal, but one which will not please technophiles, businesses or especially rural customers.
4G has been much hyped as a solution to the rural/urban digital divide, which has seen telcos struggling to economically justify rolling out high speed broadband to rural areas. 4G would wirelessly produce similar broadband speeds to what general fixed line users in UK cities receive today.