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Debunking UK’s 4G

Ofcom announced that Everything Everywhere (EE) has been given the go-ahead to roll out 4G in the UK ahead of its competitors. It’s an interesting albeit controversial move from Ofcom – but an exciting step forward for the UK regardless. So what does this all mean?

Everything Everywhere 4G

Ofcom announced that Everything Everywhere (EE) has been given the go-ahead to roll out 4G in the UK ahead of its competitors. It’s an interesting albeit controversial move from Ofcom – but an exciting step forward for the UK regardless.

So what does this all mean?

What flavour of 4G are we getting in the UK?

4G Long-Term-Evolution is slightly different to other 4G technologies as it doesn’t explicitly follow the standard protocol. However, the connection is now allowed to be called 4G after marketing pressure.

In the UK we are looking at using 3 frequencies of operation, the 1800MHz frequency, which EE are using, and the 800MHz / 2600MHz frequencies that will be auctioned off at the end of the year.

What will it bring?

  • Higher speeds (theoretical 100Mbps download and 50Mbps upload[1]) – actual rates will vary but trials have seen between 8 – 50 Mbps in the UK[2].
  • Lower latency providing improved data transfer speeds due to being a packet switched network, making it vastly more efficient over 3G and 2G technologies for data, which are both circuit switched.
  • Better coverage. Hopefully covering more dead zones and maybe providing rural areas[3] with their first taste of high speed internet access.

Android offerings?

Although there are currently no devices that will work with the new 4G network in the UK, there is, at the time of writing, one phone confirmed, the HTC One XL, a 4G LTE version of the popular HTC One X, Samsung is still yet to confirm any 4G LTE devices, but I speculate we might see a Galaxy S3 LTE by the end of the year, hopefully along with a handful of other devices.

iPhone 4 4G?

Short answer is unfortunately, no. The iPhone 4/4S stands for 4th version of the iPhone, they support 3G technologies but no 4G. (4G = 4th Generation Cellular Network).

New iPad?

This one is a bit more misleading, you might remember this story. In the UK, we use the same frequency as Australia and Korea, so the current offering of the 4G LTE iPad won’t work. But there have been rumours of a compatible iPad in the UK next year.

So will the iPhone 5 work with 4G LTE?

If the iPhone 5 adds LTE then it might work. If they add support for the 1800MHz frequency, then it will work. Everything Everywhere (EE) is using the same 1800MHz (1.8GHz) band that’s used in Korea and Australia. Although Apple currently don’t support this frequency, pressure in the UK from Korean and Australian markets should hopefully be enough to get them to add the support, as talks suggest.

The US uses the 700MHz and 2100MHz band, meaning their handsets will not take advantage of the UK 4G LTE network. But this also means that if the iPhone adds 1800MHz to its operating frequencies, then the iPhone 5 would also only work on EE’s network. The 800/2600MHz spectrum auctioned off later this year will not work with the new iPhone 5, potentially giving EE exclusivity in providing 4G LTE for iPhone’s newest addition.

Christopher Jenkins (Developer)

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