Feeds

Think 2014 if you're waiting for 4G in the UK

Ofcom juggles warring operators

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Comment The UK is trialling 4G technology, while the rest of the world is deploying it, because our regulator hasn't the resources to mediate between operators bleating about the injustice of it all.

Like warring siblings the UK's network operators constantly cry foul, demanding the regulator redress historical grievances and perceived inequalities like a child besieging an overworked parent. But that parent is already failing to meet its commitments, and another round of consultations isn't going to undo the Gordian Knot of spectrum ownership any quicker.

Ofcom has less money than last year. It is running on about 80 per cent budget, despite taking on much more responsibility. As well as trying to pilot the mega-auction between increasingly belligerent operators, the regulator is reviewing TV advertising, working out how to use White Space, reporting on copyright infringements and national resilience, and allocating spectrum for the Olympic games – all in addition to what it did the previous year.

Then there's the stuff still hanging on from last year. The national database of radio users, which would enable anyone to identify the owner/use of any radio mast, was supposed to go live in February. After inquiring about that, we were told it would be "in the summer", then, more than a month ago, "in a couple of weeks". And still we wait.

Meanwhile the regulator has apparently spent more than 15 months investigating a complaint of dodgy news reporting, and still can't decide on an appropriate punishment for the guilty party.

But it’s the delay of the mega-auction, selling off bands at 800MHz and 2.6GHz, which is most concerning as it is delaying the UK's deployment of 4G (LTE) technology – all while the US, Germany and elsewhere move happily along. The UK's operators like to blame the regulator, but are intransigent to the point of pugilism in insisting that previous (perceived) favouritism be redressed.

That favouritism relates to the allocations of the 900MHz bands, which were awarded to Vodafone and Telefonica (BT Cellnet, as was) for a cheap annual rent, and are now being filled with 3G signals thanks to refarming. T-Mobile and Orange got less-valuable allocations at 1.8GHz, which they could fill with 3G if there were any handsets available. Three got no allocations, so is most voluble in its ranting.

Three reckons it should get priority access to new spectrum, while O2 and Vodafone complain that T-Mobile and Orange (now combined into Everything Everywhere) has too much spectrum and should be restricted in its bidding. EE says it is damned if it is going to sit around watching everyone else buying up spectrum, while BT stands on the sidelines shouting that any coverage obligation attached to the auction would amount to an illegal state subsidy.

Our coverage of that last allegation prompted an interesting response from the Consumer Communications Panel (and an Ofcom email address) explaining that it wasn't up to BT to decide what was legal or illegal, that (apparently) was Ofcom's job – which is odd as we thought Parliament hadn't handed over such power just yet.

We received an even stronger rebuttal when we suggested that there was no workable solution, that no matter what Ofcom proposed it would prompt at least one network operator to see the regulator in court (thus further delaying the auction).

That was apparently pure speculation on our part, though we'd stand by the conclusions even as Ofcom hopes to placate everyone with another round of proposals and discussions. The regulator claims the delay won't prevent operators building 4G networks in 2013, but it obviously will when the most optimistic date for the auctions is right at the end of 2012. We'd venture a guess that legal challenges will push the UK auction well into 2013, and that we won't get an LTE signal until 2014 at best.

Unless we're visiting the US, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway or Canada... ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.