Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Everything Everywhere - 4G developments


Everything Everywhere has been particularly active in recent months in relation to raising the profile of 4G mobile broadband services.

In March 2012, Ofcom published a consultation (which was extended to close on 8th May 2012) on varying the company's 1800MHz spectrum licenses to allow it to be used to deploy LTE and WiMAX technologies (BBC coverage here). This was in recognition of the widespread and growing demand for mobile broadband services in the UK. Ofcom does not consider that "any material risk of distortion to competition will arise" through allowing Everything Everywhere to deploy services in this way, which would make it the first and only entity capable of providing LTE/WiMAX services on a national basis until the conclusion of Ofcom's forthcoming auctions of 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum. Ofcom expect this spectrum to be available across most of the UK towards the end of 2013.

At the end of April 2012, Everything Everywhere launched its 4GBritain campaign (press release here) to "increase awareness of the consumer and business benefits that faster, more reliable fourth generation mobile services will bring to the UK". The website provides "a place for people, businesses and organisations to say why they are enthusiastic about it coming to the UK"; clearly such testimonies will also support Everything Everywhere's request to Ofcom to deploy 4G services now in advance of the forthcoming auction. The campaign is supported by a report commissioned from Capital Economics on the impact and benefits of 4G technology in the UK (BBC coverage here).

A few days later, Everything Everywhere launched the UK’s first live 4G trial in Cumbria to test network performance ahead of potential further roll out by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval (coverage from ISP Review here). However, according to the BBC, other operators already unhappy with Ofcom's spectrum auction proposals object to what they see as the company being given an unfair head-start.

Ofcom is due to make its decision in June 2012. It will be interesting to monitor how well the eventual roll-out of 4G services in the UK supports the Government's strategy to have the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015. Any delays to the auction process could significantly impede the extent to which 4G can support this ambition and cause the UK to lag even further behind countries where 4G services are already available.

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