4G technology will bring over three times more mobile broadband capacity to the UK from 2013, Ofcom said on Thursday.
According to research conducted by the telecoms regulator, LTE (long-term evolution) is 230 percent more spectrally efficient than HSPA, the 3G technology that currently provides cellular data connectivity to the country. However, LTE was not the only 4G technology considered in the research — Ofcom also looked at emerging and later generations of LTE's big rival, WiMax.
Stephen Unger, Ofcom's chief technology officer, said the efficiency of 4G spectrum use would increase even more by the end of the decade, by which point technologies such as the future LTE Advanced standard should be in place.
"4G mobile technologies will be able to send more information than 3G, for a given amount of spectrum," Unger said in a statement. "This increased efficiency means that 4G networks will be able to support increased data rates and more users.
"The research that we commissioned indicates that early 4G mobile networks with standard configurations will be 3.3 times (230 percent) more spectrally efficient than today's standard 3G networks," Unger continued. "To put this in context, a user on an early 4G network will be able to download a video in around a third of the time it takes today on a 3G network. It is anticipated that this efficiency will increase to approximately 5.5 times (450 percent) by 2020."
A user on an early 4G network will be able to download a video in around a third of the time it takes today on a 3G network.– Stephen Unger, Ofcom
Ofcom conducted the research to better inform its strategic spectrum management work. The 3.3-times boost is in comparison with the HSPA technology being used by 2011's handsets, although compared with "emerging, high-end 3G configurations" that use multiple antennas and more efficient modulation, 4G will only provide a 1.2-times spectral efficiency increase, Ofcom said.
The increased spectral efficiency of 4G will not in itself be enough to satisfy the growing thirst for mobile broadband, Ofcom added, noting that the upcoming auctions of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands will also be necessary to meet demand.
"Finally, mobile networks will also need to be designed intelligently to ensure the best use of spectrum," the regulator said. "In particular, the research anticipates a greater use of small cells to meet demand in specific areas."
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