The first 4G network in the UK has been switched on and started live testing. Once active, it’ll be available exclusively through EE – a new brand launched today by Everything Everywhere, to sit alongside its Orange and T-Mobile brands.
There’s no doubt that this is a major development for the UK mobile industry, but what does the industry have to say about it?
Milan Sallaba, KPMG partner and head of strategy advisory, TMT, welcomes the move and says it’s great news for both consumers and businesses in the UK.
“The long-awaited availability of 4G puts the UK back on the map as a technology leader in mobile together with countries such as Germany and the US, where 4G services have been available for some time now,” says Saballa. “The service is expected to roll out quickly from here onwards, making wireless internet a commonplace reality for those who want it. A speedy rollout going forward will also help make up for time previously lost to other countries who did not experience any delays in their respective 4G auction and rollout processes.”
Kester Mann, senior analyst operators from CCS Insight, says the speed with which EE is rolling out 4G, just weeks after Ofcom gave it the nod, is to be applauded.
“Following the uproar from operators since EE was given the go ahead by Ofcom, today’s announcements represent an impressive push to drive 4G in the UK earlier than expected, with live testing beginning this week and commercial deployment in a number of weeks,” says Mann. “Its plans to reach 16 cities by Christmas, and 98 per cent of the population by 2014, are undoubtedly ambitious, but EE should be congratulated for taking the risks to invest strongly in network rollout before receiving authorisation from Ofcom.”
Along with first mover advantage, Mann also thinks that the partnership deals with Samsung, HTC, Huawei and Nokia – which is making its flagship Lumia 920 handset exclusively available on the EE network – will help build momentum for the new brand. And that’s not the mention the heavy hint dropped at this morning’s press conference that EE has some kind of iPhone 5 partnership in the works.
Matthew Howett, lead regulatory telecoms analyst at Ovum, thinks that while EE’s offering looks good, there’s still a vital piece of the puzzle missing.
“All eyes will be on EE once the 4G rollout gets under way,” Howett says. “For it to be an attractive proposition for consumers, it requires a good degree of network coverage, an attractive range of handsets and easy-to-understand pricing. From what we learnt today, EE certainly seems to have done everything right on the first two, but pricing will not be known until the firm launches in a few weeks’ time.
“Britain’s other mobile networks will most likely have to wait until next year and an auction of additional mobile spectrum before they launch 4G services. While they technically could also launch 4G early using their existing spectrum, the perceived lack of an ecosystem and devices has so far not made that an attractive option. However, two of the five devices EE is launching with are capable of running LTE in the spectrum bands the other operators already have, so attention will likely turn to why they aren’t also planning to launch 4G before that auction.”
The reason could be that other operators wouldn’t be able to achieve true 4G LTE in their existing spectrum – at least according to EE, which claims that its rivals would in fact only be able to provide double-cell HSPA+ networks.
The 4G deployment should also help to push the continued growth of mCommerce, according to James Brooke, CEO at mCommerce solutions provider Amplience.
“The launch of 4G is another step towards mobile technology fulfilling its early promise for retailers, as they embrace commerce opportunities via tablet and smartphone devices,” says Brooke. “With 4G, the quality of mobile commerce experiences will improve beyond all recognition. Retailers will be able to use the high quality immersive video and rich media accessible on a broadband connected online store. Increased speed, quality and engagement with mCommerce will see an increase in customers turning to their mobile or tablet devices as their channel of choice for online shopping.”
But Catalin Cosoi, chief security researcher at internet security solutions provider Bitdefender, warns of the potential security risks of 4G.
“4G is less secure than 3G if we assume the user’s ability to access a larger spectrum of information exposes them to a greater quantity of software and a proportional quantity of malware,” says Cosoi. “Because of the broadband of the 4G technology, some Trojans might be able to siphon data from a user’s device without necessarily slowing it down, thus passing undetected more easily. These Trojans may act as part of a mobile botnet development, which need a constant flow of information exchange between the C&C center and the ‘zombified’ mobile devices. Attackers could seek and exploit undiscovered vulnerabilities in the 4G protocol or architecture. They may also try to use unhandled exceptions or think of scenarios never considered by developers.”