No doubt most readers will have seen that the UK’s largest (and worst named) mobile operator, Everything Everywhere, has just been given the green light to roll out the UK’s first commercial 4G service anytime it likes after 11th September 2012.
Amusingly, Ofcom, which calls itself the competition authority for the UK communications industry, has given Everything Everywhere a monopoly on 4G services that will last until the other mobile operators can catch up and get access to the licences they need to operate in the required 4G frequency spectrum. Everything Everywhere is ahead of the pack and able to deploy 4G straight away because it owns Orange and T-Mobile, giving it their respective frequency allocations (a big chunk of the available mobile spectrum in the UK).
With Ofcom planning to release more spectrum by auctioning off the licences that the other operators need by the end of 2012 it will, realistically, be well into 2013 before Everything Everywhere sees any competition for its 4G services in the UK.
Given the poor track record of mobile operators in delivering high speed data services over the past decade or so – constantly overpromising on performance levels, delivering poor network coverage, and making ridiculously high charges for those exceeding data limits – I wouldn’t be inclined to get too excited about 4G just yet. Without competition I can’t see Everything Everywhere doing anything other than reverting to type by delivering an overpriced and poorly performing 4G service.
Then again, maybe things are changing. The company is rumoured to have seen the light on its ridiculous name and is supposedly rebranding its 4G service as 4G Everywhere (there may be an issue with the Trade Description Act if they are not careful). And, in the USA, T-Mobile has just launched an unlimited 4G service for just $20 per month. Ah, but they have competitors there.