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What is 4G and when is it available in the UK?

News Mobiles

Image by Barry Skeates

The 4G revolution begins – Everything Everywhere is granted a UK licence for first 4G network. 

Do you hate buffering as much as we do here at Geek Squad? Soon it may be a thing of the past when it comes to our mobile devices in the UK as the 4G network rollout looks set to get underway.

What is 4G and when is it arriving?

New UK network operator Everything Everywhere, a joint venture between T-Mobile and Orange, has been granted permission by telecoms regulator OFCOM to take advantage of certain new network technologies and will be allowed to use them to broadcast a 4G network across the UK as of September 11 2012.

How?

As part of T-Mobile and Orange’s recent merger, the company found themselves holding a large chunk of the airwaves in which 4G signal is broadcast. The 1800 MHz band is rated by those in the know as the best portion of the airwaves in which to broadcast 4G signal, and so far it’s proved to be capable of excellent speeds in recent trials of the service. In fact, Everything Everywhere actually holds a little too much of this band and as part of the formation of the company they have been ordered by OFCOM to sell off part of this resource for others to take advantage of. It’s currently understood that they are in talks with UK network Three, who want to take advantage of the same facility. Keep an eye out for announcements on that front soon.

What does this mean for me?

We could see super-quick mobile broadband speeds become available for UK customers, potentially in under a month. In the US four carriers now offer a 4G service and consistently provide users with between 4 and 6 times the speed of 3G – quite the step up. As a result of such a jump in speed we will see a ripple effect when it comes to enabling new services and features on the devices we use.

Cloud storage will become more of a reality and much less dependent on being joined to a Wi-Fi network for decent speeds and usability. In addition, improvements to the quality of streaming video and music with reduced buffering times will mean that media consumption is a radically improved experience. We will also see a plethora of new services become available via the mobile network, like the ability to access real time 3D maps and back up all of your media (including HD videos) in real time.

What do I need to know? 

Don’t get swept away on a wave of 4G joy just yet though - a word of caution though if we may. You will need a 4G handset or tablet to take advantage of these services and at the moment, the new Apple iPad is the only 4G capable device widely available and there’s some scepticism around whether the device will work on the UK 4G networks when the roll-out happens. Watch this space for the latest on this and other 4G devices when the revolution beings shortly.   

What’s next?

Lawyers probably! Everything Everywhere have stolen a march on the competition, and it’s more than likely that other networks may put forward legal challenges to this ruling to slow down the rollout - it puts them at a serious disadvantage. That being said though, this is a monumental step in the evolution of the UK’s wireless network infrastructure and one thing I think it will mean is that the other UK networks won’t be far behind in offering a 4G service, so as not to lose too much market share. Hopefully this all adds up to good news for the UK consumer, as we once again play catch up with Asia and the US when it comes to technology rollouts - fortunately though, the gap looks set to close this year after all. 

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