Posts tagged ‘800MHz’

4G shopping not yet open all hours

papers-and-ipad-on-train
I received a press release yesterday from EE that observed that 4G has increased the likelihood of UK shoppers conducting their shopping online. To be more precise EE’s 4GEE “Mobile Living Index” – essentially a survey – said that the number of people who said that they planned to shop online using a smartphone or tablet had increased from 15 per cent last year to 39 per cent this year.

That might be true but what caught my eye was the claim that “The daily commute (8.30am and 5.30pm) is the most popular time for shopping on mobile devices”.

Well that might be true for some, but not in my case, or anyone that shares my train commute.

As an EE customer I can attest to excellent network performance near my home and work locations, but on the commute is a rather different story. During this, my phone goes through every flavour of mobile standard, from no service, to 2G, to GPRS, to EDGE, to HSDPA and for a few brief minutes of data bliss, to 4G. The commute is tiring for me – it must be exhausting for my phone.

The reason for this is the terrain. The train line is set away from the good coverage areas and the signal has to contend with high walls round the line, extensive tree coverage and bridges. In addition, occasionally, in between signal failures, the train sometimes moves at speed. None of these things is conducive to delivering a solid data connection. EE use of 1800MHz spectrum, rather than 800MHz, while great for speed in good coverage areas, makes it less likely the signal will penetrate these obstructions.

However, it’s not as if EE can’t compete, as in the spectrum auction it picked up 2 x 5MHz of 800MHz LTE (as well as 2 x 35MHz of 2.6GHz), but it has yet to play its hand on what its plans are for these.

Of course, even if this was deployed it would only help me if I changed my handset (the UK iPhone 5 only supports LTE 1800MHz), which I have no plans to do at the moment.

The frustration is that we’ve been sold the concept of 4G as enabling us to work, play and shop online at high speed while on the go, specifically on trains, but in many cases, it’s still a pipe dream in real world situations.

If seems it’s not going to get much better any time soon. According to this story, “High-speed 4G broadband will be fully in use on sections of Britain’s rail network in 2019 under new plans announced by ministers.”

Inside a train, yesterday

Inside a train, yesterday. The  lack of 4G can clearly be seen.

2019? Really?

On top of that we’re told that only 70 per cent of the public will get 4G on trains by 2019.

Well colour me excited. That’s fully ten years after the first 4G was introduced in Europe, which means that by then, well could expect 5G to be nearing reality.

Furthermore, while Network Rail will be responsible for the track side infrastructure, it will be up to the individual train operators to supply and install the 4G systems on the trains themselves.

Seeing as my train operator, First Capital Connect doesn’t seem too hot on actually running a train service, (as in trains running on time, running with enough carriages, or running at all), I don’t expect it to be able to do sterling work as a 4G network installer.

It’s not all bad of course. On the upside, I’m getting to read more.

UK carriers joining forces over 800MHz LTE

Good news in the UK LTE market, as Three, EE, Telfonica and Vodafone have actually joined forces to speed up the use of 800MHz for mobile broadband.

One of the issues around the use of 800MHz is that the signals are likely to knock out terrestrial digital TV signals, known in the UK as Freeview. The four operators have created the Digital Mobile Spectrum group, which is tasked with ensuring that Freeview consumers in the UK do not suffer from interference from 800MHz LTE, an issue that if not dealt with could put a stumbling block on launching the technology. Under the plans, the four will contribute to a 180m pot of cash that will be used for equipment to tackle interference that up to an estimated 2.3m homes could face once 800MHz LTE launches. However, any operator that fails to win any 800MHz spectrum will not have to contribute and will drop out of the company.

How it will work in practice is that eligible households will receive a voucher to cover the cost of a special filter, which will be attached to the Freeview box in the living room. In some situations the funding will pay for an engineer visit, and in extreme situations where there’s no chance of terrestrial TV working again – presumably is they live right next to a LTE800MHz macros station. Interestingly, for around 500 homes in the UK, there will be no acceptable alternative – it’s unclear if the fund will extend to letting these poor people move home. (NB. This is a joke).

Either way, it’s a market of how serious the government and the operators to get this 4G thing moving and the coming together is in everyone’s interest.

Ofcom, the UK regulator pulled out an unusual masterstroke in allowing Everything Everywhere to refarm its spare 1800MHz frequency for LTE despite it clearly placing it at an advantage over its rivals who do not have such spectrum to spare. After initially throwing their toys out the pram, the move has clearly made the rival realise that they need to fight back with network engineers rather than with lawyers and get their own LTE plans going to earn revenue.

Therefore Three, Vodafone, and Telefonica won’t want anything to further delay their LTE plans, while Everything Everywhere will not want to be seen to be unfairly extended their LTE lead, which from an initial 12 months is now more likely to be six months.

As far as UK consumers go that’s a win.

How MetroPCS has handled interference between macro and small cells is one of the discussion points in the tracks that Small Cells North America conference being co-located at LTE North America 2012 taking place on the 14-15th November 2012. Click here to register your interest

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