Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More on Everything Everywhere & 4G - part 2

Further to my previous post, there was more coverage of Ofcom's decision to allow Everything Everywhere to launch 4G services this year in advance of the forthcoming 4G spectrum auction in the Financial Times last week ("Everything Everywhere warns rivals on 4G"). The article suggests that any litigation from other operators in relation to Ofcom's decision could delay the auction and the launch of 4G services in the UK:
"...the decision met with criticism from rivals such as Vodafone and Three, which will have to wait to buy new licences in the next auction of frequencies. This has raised the prospect of litigation to reverse the Ofcom decision...this would cause Everything Everywhere to review its own legal position regarding the auction, with any legal objections to the process likely to delay 4G services for the UK even longer. Britain has already fallen behind other developed nations in its 4G plans, with operators in countries such as the US and Germany already rolling out superfast mobile services."
If no litigation from other operators is forthcoming, the company plans to launch services shortly:
"...the company would have 4G devices in shops this year if Ofcom is unopposed. (Olaf Swantee, chief executive of Everything Everywhere) said that it would first offer dongles that can be used to pick up 4G signals, with handsets expected to become available shortly afterwards... tests have so far proved that the 4G network would be “five to six times” faster than the 3G network “even with a lot of people on it”."
The company has run successful trials of the technology in rural areas, more on this here and here.

Recent developments in the USA provide an interesting comparison with the continuing question mark hanging over the rollout of 4G in the UK. Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the transfers of spectrum between Verizon Wireless and SpectrumCo, Cox, Leap, and T-Mobile, in a $3.6 billion deal which sees Verizon Wireless acquire almost 20MHz of spectrum (Verizon press release here). From the Financial Times ("Verizon spectrum deal gains approval"):
"Under the terms of the main transaction, Verizon Wireless, the largest US mobile operator by subscriber numbers, will acquire nearly 20MHz of spectrum from SpectrumCo, a joint venture that includes cable operators Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and BrightHouse, and additional spectrum in the same band from Cox Communications.Verizon Wireless will use the new spectrum to extend the rollout of its 4G wireless broadband network based on LTE technology."
The deal was conditional upon a number of factors, including the transfer of some of Verizon Wireless's spectrum to T-Mobile, one of its competitors, as well as enforceable commitments that Verizon Wireless should accelerate the buildout of its newly acquired spectrum, and offer data roaming on commercially reasonable terms and conditions. Specifically in relation to the buildout, from the FCC press release:
  • Within three years, Verizon Wireless will provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 30 percent of the total population in the Economic Areas or the portions of Economic Areas in which it is acquiring AWS-1 license authorizations (calculated by summing the population for each of these areas); and
  • Within seven years, Verizon Wireless will provide signal coverage and offer service to at least 70 percent of the population in each Economic Area in which it is acquiring AWS-1 license authorizations, or, where a portion of the Economic Area is acquired, to at least 70 percent of the population of the total acquired portion of the licensed Economic Area.
Earlier this year, another Financial Times article ("US rollout of LTE phone networks accelerates") reported that all four leading US mobile operators will have commercial LTE networks up and running by the end of 2013. Verizon Wireless (the largest US mobile operator by subscriber numbers) first launched its LTE network at the end of 2010, with rivals accelerating their deployments to remain competitive. This "reflects the accelerating adoption of smartphones and the emergence of the mobile internet as a real alternative to desktop internet access", according to the article.

If there are no further delays either to Everything Everywhere's deployment of 4G or the 4G spectrum auction process, we could see the first 4G services in the UK later this year from Everything Everywhere, with the first services from other operators using spectrum obtained via the forthcoming auction expected to be available in the second half of 2013.

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