UK falling behind in race for high-speed mobile internet

Posted: March 22, 2011 by Emma Dibdin in News
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by Emma Dibdin

An Ofcom executive has warned that unless threats to Britain’s digital infrastructure are resolved, our access in the UK to high-speed mobile internet will be delayed, the Guardian reports today.

Earlier today, Ofcom announced plans for a 2012 4G auction, their largest ever auction of mobile phone spectrum. In simple terms, what will be auctioned off are the rights to fourth generation (4G) radio spectrum, which would allow networks to offer customers connections that are around 25 times faster than their home broadband connection. The aim, Ofcom said, is to enable high-speed mobile internet access throughout the UK.

As it is, customers in the UK may have to wait until 2014 or later to enjoy this high-speed access, because the infrastructure that needs to be built is both expensive and time-consuming. But Ofcom executive Ed Richards suggested that this delay could be increased if UK mobile operator Everything Everywhere continue with their planned legal challenge to the new proposal.

Everything Everywhere, made up of a merger between Orange and T-Mobile, are challenging Ofcom on the grounds that their new strategy provides only “partial solutions” to long-standing problems.”The proposals,” said spokesman Tom Alexander, “do not significantly reduce the dominance” of Vodafone and O2 over current mobile coverage. No further details were offered.

Richards called the debate one of “huge economic importance to a lot of very powerful companies and of huge importance to the country…I hope that all [operators] recognise that the UK needs to move on with this now and accept that a judgment’s got to be made.”

Given that several countries including Germany, Russia and the US either already have 4G networks or plan to introduce them soon, it seems as though the UK has fallen far enough behind already.

If the legal battle continues, Richards said, then “there is only one loser – the British consumer.”

What do mobile journalists out there think? Are you eager for some 4G action, or content with good old 3G? Are Vodafone and O2 becoming the Rupert Murdochs of the mobile world?

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