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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

How much does 4G cost?

Bearing in mind that the Carter Report is hinting at mobile operators being responsible for remote, rural and USO coverage, the likelihood is that will be over a mixture of 2 and 3G. How far behind us will that leave us? And what about 4G?

After all, NTT Docomo are switching off their 2G network at about the time our new USO is supposed to be in full swing. And the reason for the switch off? It will be more than just obsolete for them, it has already been more than surpassed, both wired and wirelessly.

For many of us, that little "3" on our smartphones is still an elusive little devil, and I've seen mine more times abroad than here in the UK. (And yes, I do get out the house!) Even if the mobile operators look to invest in making the most of those all expensive 3G licences from 2000, or are given tax breaks and incentives to do so, where is 3G coverage actually going to be by 2012? Should we really be 'giving' the auction monies from 2000 to subsidise an already out of date technology?

And so what about 4G and investment in that? The vice president of AT&T's network architecture, Hank Kafka, gave a to-the-point analysis of the issue only last week. Primarily, that 4G is about the 'mobile broadband world', whereas 3G can't deliver what many users need their mobile experience to give them TODAY. Can I just repeat that? 3G doesn't give a broadband experience TODAY and isn't much more likely to tomorrow, or next year, or in 2012. TelephonyOnline have a great article here.

So, to the point. If 4G is required to offer mobile broadband, what exactly are we going to do about a USO, a regulatory body, government advisors, telcos etc who seem satisfied to let UK consumers and businesses in 2012 struggle with something that in 2009 is known to be insufficient for present, let alone future, needs?

The reasoning behind the USO is sound. Yes, we need to all have access to affordable, ubiquitous, FUNCTIONAL broadband. It is the mechanism(s) to support it that seem deeply flawed. Yeah, 3G would be nice (compared to what is available today) but not whilst our mobile operators are permitted to screw us with 'unlimited' tariffs that aren't, disproportionate data costs, and at speeds which are NOT broadband any more than ADSL is. Encourage them to invest for 2012 and beyond certainly, but not in something that won't deliver. And the wireless cloud should be an overlay on a superfast FTTH network, not a substitute for it.

4G may prove expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as wasting precious public money on a solution that people from the top levels of industry down to grassroots know is 'unfit for purpose' already.


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