The hype was huge. 4G LTE was coming to Britain. Beginning in the major cities and slowly making it’s way around the country, 4G would allow you to download a movie in seconds. Some tests had even shown it was faster than broadband!
But one year on from the introduction of Britain’s 4G services, we want to know: has it really lived up to the hype?
In the terms of the auction, mobile phone networks were required to serve 98% of the population with indoor 4G coverage. Whilst they have been given a large period of time in which to do this—we expect it to be achieved in the next 5 to 10 years.
This year though, 4G coverage has been rather good, covering roughly 115 towns and cities—36 per cent of the UK’s population. It had originally been planned that LTE coverage, when introduced would increase from the original 36 launch locations to 171 towns and 20 cities within a year—with a measly 115 covered, it has fallen rather short. However, one has to remember that within a year they have more than tripled the coverage of people and towns. With the major economic centers that sorely needed the service covered.
EE has very recently, within the last week, improved its service dramatically. EE now covers an amazingly vast 70 per cent of the UK’s population with a whopping 191 cities and towns across Britain. It’s good, but it’s still around 20 million people short of the required coverage by OFCOM, the UK’s mobile phone network regulator. It remains though a huge number. All in all, it’s hard to tell if they’re doing badly or well in terms of coverage, but we don’t expect Vodafone’s claim that they’ll have 98 per cent coverage in 2015 to come anywhere near true, with only 500,000 4G customers too Vodafone’s take up has been slow.
Speed wise, the UK is faring very well in comparison to USA, Japan, Germany, and our dear rivals over the channel, France. According to the report by OpenSignal the UK is in ninth place, behind South Korea, Canada, Denmark, Italy, a few others, and first place Australia.
Unfortunately for Britain however, the OpenSignal report remarked that it had noticed declines in the UK’s 4G download speeds over the last year as more users took to the new technology, with boosts provided by the release of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 leading to large increases in take-up of 4G LTE.
4G is important for Britain. The advantage of eight times faster speeds than 3G are obvious. If you can access information faster, you can waste less time waiting around; the better coverage should ensure that people can send emails and read documents from anywhere in Britain. The economic impact could be brilliant. The maximum theoretical speed was 150Mbps, though in reality it hovers around a maximum speed of 80Mbps with your mobile network. To put that into understandable terms a 3G connection of 10Mbps, would take roughly 25 minutes to download a 2GB HD film, whilst the 4G connection at 80Mbps could do it in three minutes and 20 seconds. It’s clear that these benefits are here already; they’re just not being equally delivered.
So in conclusion, it’s safe to say that 4G is doing well in the UK. Whilst our download speeds have been slipping over 4G LTE, it is an expected side effect of greater uptake, and the coverage is growing and growing. We expect the 98 per cent coverage target to have been achieved by 2017 at the earliest, and it’s an incredibly achievable target. Times though, move fast and 2017 is a long time away, so long away in fact that EE has already begun investigating the implementation of 5G services into the UK.
Whether you have taken the plunge into high-speed mobile networks using 4G LTE or are undecided, packages are now being released that offer the same price for 4G and 3G services—something that was unheard of six months ago. So far, the mobile phone network providers are improving their network’s 4G coverage faster and faster. If you don’t have it where you live, you will do soon. And if you have it where you live, then you should start reaping the benefits of high speed Internet access on the move.