/ Technology

We want the 4G roll-out now

Uzbekistan, Latvia, Armenia and Lithuania. These are just four countries that have already deployed more advanced mobile networks than we have in the UK. And the 4G wireless internet roll-out has been delayed, again.

The long-awaited 4G auction has been delayed by Ofcom, meaning we won’t see a 4G roll-out until the end of 2013 at the earliest.

What’s 4G? It’s the fourth generation of the cellular wireless standards – basically wireless internet that could be as much as 10x faster than our current 3G.

Halted by legal challenges

This latest delay comes as a result of a thinly veiled legal challenge from O2, which after only a cursory glance, looks to me like a childish attempt at procrastination.

O2 claims that, in its current form, the auction is what it calls “state aid”, as it allows operators that don’t have much of the most valuable sub-1GHz wireless spectrum (this carries more data) to bid for more of this sought after frequency. O2 has a fair chunk of this frequency already, and so doesn’t want to miss out in the new auction.

What O2 seems to have conveniently forgotten is that it was gifted sub-1GHz when its network was initially set up, while Three had to pay for it – if that isn’t “state aid”, I don’t know what is.

In truth, this auction is actually an attempt to restore parity between the networks rather than favour anyone. But O2 is now throwing a tantrum about having its extra sweets taken away.

Providers trying to save money?

What O2 and the other two main networks – Everything Everywhere and Vodafone – appear to want is to delay the auction as long as they possibly can.

Rolling-out 4G will involve providers spending loads of money on installing a new and expensive infrastructure, while being unable to squeeze more money out of their customers. So as long as no-one else has 4G, these providers are sitting pretty without the need to upgrade their network.

Three, on the other hand, is running out of network capacity fast as its higher frequency spectrum can’t carry as much data. Perhaps the other networks using delay tactics to hobble their rival?

Asking big corporations to play fair with each other might be a little naïve, but I’m tired of seeing companies stand in the way of new technologies and failing to offer a better service to customers, apparently for the sake of their profit margins.

I say, stop this collective delaying and get on with implementing the 4G networks that your customers deserve!


I can’t believe how juvenile the large network operators are behaving over 4G. They should have all worked together to get 4G in place for London 2012. Instead, they are helping to make the UK a technological back-water. Added to the problems we have in the UK with poor broadband speeds this delay is going to erode the competitiveness of “UK PLC” even further. O2 should be especially ashamed of their behaviour – Telefonica (the Spanish parent company) is about to launch 4G in at home – see http://www.totaltele.com/view.aspx?ID=467479

Mikhail says:
7 September 2011

Sometimes I think that IT patents and Ofcom are only exist to stop development.

CountryCousin says:
8 September 2011

Hollow laugh here in Somerset. Perhaps first we could get 2G let alone 3G here? We have a mast about a mile away, but f***-all signal. With any provider at all — I’ve tried all the networks — rubbish, even outside.

Aram says:
14 October 2011

I’m using that 4G network that is launched in Armenia and I have to say it’s still a test thing I believe. My phone – is HTC Sensation was long time in UK and only recently launched here is performing really good, but sometimes network slows down. I’m sure other countries have the same problem, that is one operator that’s rolling it out.

To continue I must say it’s better to have fully ready network and offer that service to users rather then having tests and tests over and over again. Especially in UK when customer satisfaction level should be not low in any case.