UK's 4G network may be delayed until 2015

UK web and phone regulator Ofcom warns that 4G networks may not be generally available until 2015, adding further dampeners on plans for high-speed mobile networks.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Latest plans from UK web and phone regulator Ofcom warn that the highly anticipated 4G network may not be available until 2015.

In its draft annual plan for 2012/13, Ofcom said that although the rollout will begin over the next couple of years, "wide availability" might not be until 2015 at the earliest.

Trials have been taking place around the UK, including Cornwall in the south-west corner, and Cambridge, home to Microsoft Research. London is also taking advantage of an O2-sponsored 4G trial, the largest next-generation network available in the UK to date.

Users particularly in rural locations will be without high-speed broadband, either at home, in businesses, or wirelessly for two years once the trails come to an end.

The 4G spectrum will be aided by the switch-off of analogue television signals on the 800 MHz frequency, along with the 2.6 Ghz frequency that will pack high-speed data services into this slice of the available air-space.

But networks are still in conflict over who gets what share of the wireless spectrum.

Initially set to be auctioned off next year in 2012, the mobile network industry continues to bicker as to who gets what, and at what cost.

But a UK parliamentary committee criticised mobile operators for fighting over how to share the spectrum between them.

While Ofcom wants lower-share network Three to remain as a viable competitor in the big-ocean of major cellular network fish, O2 and Vodafone believe that the discounted rate that Three would be given would amount to "state-aid", and disadvantage their operations.

The auction was pushed back further to 2013, leading sister site CNET UK to consider whether Ofcom's latest estimates are simply "pie-in-the-sky" numbers.

Because 4G was only mentioned once, and briefly in the draft report, it seems that Ofcom either has little focus on the area until the auction is complete -- or the networks resolve their legal threats and disputes, and get major events like the 2012 Olympic Games out of the way.


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