Communications company Everything Everywhere has won the right from Ofcom to roll out 4G mobile access in the UK from September this year. The service promises to deliver download speeds up to 10 times faster than that of current 3G transmissions. With faster connections sought after, can 4G live up to our expectations or will the reality prove different from the dream?
It is only a decade or so since the highly anticipated 3G was made widely available in the UK. Whilst the promise of having transportable internet prompted fantasies of watching feature-length films on the commute home, the reality left people more than a little disheartened.
Whilst 3G has proved to be an improvement on older mobile technologies, dealing with poor signal, waiting several hours for a film to download or even several minutes for a web page to appear is far from ideal. The internet may be mobile but it isn’t the futuristic fantasy many had in mind.
Enter 4G. Many devices abroad promise to be 4G ready but the developments have been long overdue in the UK. Behind the scenes network companies have been battling for the right to own parts of the 4G spectrum with Everything Everywhere (owner of Orange and T-Mobile) finally being given the go-ahead thanks to spare space on its 2G spectrum. The decision made by Ofcom has sparked fury among rival networks Vodafone and o2 who will have to wait until a spectrum auction at the end of December to begin their 4G campaign. This gives Everything Everywhere many months to get ahead and dominate the market.
The company has generated questions as to what will happen to the brands Orange and T-Mobile in the coming months. Together they are the largest operator in the UK with 27 million customers and 720 stores. Yet with Everything Everywhere winning the bid on 4G access, there is a real possibility that the brands may merge.
4G promises to deliver download speeds such as an album in a mere 60 seconds or a movie in 10 minutes, much closer to the experience people have on their home PCs. But are these improvements something we will be seeing in the imminent future?
Currently there are very few devices available on the UK market which would be compatible with the 4G spectrum. Forget your iPhone, iPad or BlackBerry, none of these would work as the vital software is not correct. Similarly, whilst the iPhone 5 looks to be about to launch with 4G compatibility, this seems to be in line with the American spectrum with no word that it will change it for the UK market. What seems more likely is Everything Everywhere offering a 4G ‘dongle’ to grant access to the spectrum on the few phones which do offer the service. But with the news of 4G hitting Britain, it certainly shouldn’t be long before the markets are flooded with ready-to-go smartphones.
Given the momentary lack of available devices it seems that Everything Everywhere may not be able to fully maximise the advantage of their spectrum purchase immediately meaning that rival companies should not fear market domination just yet.
One thing is for certain: Britons will soon be flocking to local stores with hope reminiscent of that surrounding the launch of 3G. What remains to be seen is if 4G will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps and leave people thoroughly disappointed or if accessing the internet at the click of a button will finally become a long-anticipated reality.
Cover image courtesy of Mark Morgan, flickr.com
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