Cell phone networks are getting increasing use, and people expect faster and faster speeds. In order to fulfill that demand, providers are moving to 4G, also called LTE networks. These high speed networks promise faster speeds for all, and bring within everyone’s palm the latest and greatest technology, allowing them to download at speeds never seen before. Every provider in every country is now contemplating moving to this new technology, but in the UK, delays have started to appear. Here’s why 4G availability in the UK is years away from completion.
To move to 4G, or LTE, cellphone providers need to use new spectrum, or new frequencies, that the government has to allocate to them. This process is regulated by Ofcom, the UK regulator that handles these things. The way this is done is by doing an auction, where all of the network providers bid on how much spectrum they need, and then essentially buy if off. This doesn’t need to be a very lengthy process, but right now it is, because of various factors. Ofcom was supposed to go through that bidding process this year, but it’s been delayed, and rumors now say that it won’t even be done in 2012. There are many reasons, some of them are bureaucracy, and another reason is the fact that Three, one of the cellular companies, doesn’t have as much invested in the 4G technologies as the others, and will likely require help setting up their new network. This adds complications to the whole process.
Then, even when the spectrum is allocated, 4G won’t magically appear either. Each company needs to actually build the network, which involves bringing up new towers, with new technologies and new antennas. It’s a long and costly process, and according to the latest estimates, we’re now looking at 2015 until most of the country starts getting 4G support. This is a long delay, and much later than many other countries, and has many people crying foul. Indeed, the UK was among the first to bring up many new wireless technologies, but now that 4G is at our doorsteps, it lags behind, and is slowly becoming one of the worse developed countries as far as deployment goes. The fault rests with Ofcom but also with the companies themselves, who’ve been going slowly with their deployment. It’s an expensive process for sure, and they are never certain that costs will be recouped.
Overall, it seems like those who want fast wireless signals still have a way to go. LTE devices are only now making their appearance on the world stage, and without the proper 4G network in place, they are useless. London, along with other major cities, will be the first to see this network based support, but even these central locations will take some times. If you live in the countries, then you may have 3-4 years to wait, at least.