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The 4G auction - a beginner's guide

Rory Cellan-Jones | 14:54 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Remember the sale of the century, or was it the sale of the millennium? Back in 2000 the 3G auction raised £22.5 billion for the Treasury and set the framework for mobile phone services in Britain for the next decade.

Today Ofcom has fired the starting gun for an even bigger sale of mobile spectrum which it believes could prove even more significant. But the mobile operators are hoping that it will turn out rather cheaper for them than the 3G sale.


4G mobile internet dongle for laptop

The regulator is calling this the 4G auction, and despite the cries of purists who insist that is just a marketing term to cover an ill-defined collection of new mobile technologies, that is the name that will stick. So let's try to answer a few questions about 4G.

What is spectrum?

Spectrum refers to the airwaves over which all wireless communication - radio, television, mobile voice and data - takes place. Ofcom says spectrum is a fundamental commodity which is of increasing value over time.

What is 4G and why do we need it?

4G refers to the next generation of mobile networks, which promise faster speeds, in particular for data. Ofcom says there has been an explosion in the use of mobile broadband in the UK since the arrival of smartphones. It's expecting mobile data flows to continue to soar, as tablet computer sales take off and smartphones become mass market devices.

What's up for sale?

The sale, which Ofcom hopes will happen early next year, will involve two blocks of spectrum which should fulfil two purposes - making mobile internet coverage both wider and faster.

The first block, the higher frequency 2.6gGHz band, should make all those smartphone users who are trying to watch video or play games online just a bit happier. It's suited to providing large amounts of capacity over a compact area, so should help ease the congestion on city centre networks.

The second block, the 800MHz band, is currently used for analogue television and becomes available next year once the digital switchover is complete. It is suitable for bringing mobile data services over wide areas, so it could mean that people in rural areas will find mobile broadband a better option than the fixed line variety.

Who will win?

The auction will determine the future of the UK's four remaining mobile operators - Vodafone, O2, Three, and Everything Everywhere, the amusing name for the merged Orange and T-Mobile networks. For Three in particular it's a matter of life and death - the company feels bruised by a recent Ofcom ruling which saw other networks allowed to use their old 2G spectrum for 3G services.

Smart phone user

 

So what happens next is probably a huge row - various operators have already held up the process for years with legal action. The plan set out by Ofcom today is designed to ensure that all four operators end up with enough spectrum to compete nationally. That makes it less likely that Three will object - but there's every possibility that another operator will hold up the auction by challenging the rules in court.

How much will the auction raise?

This sale involves 80% more spectrum than the 3G auction, so if the operators bid with the same eagerness shown for 3G licences back in 2000, then you might expect as much as £40 billion to end up in the Treasury's coffers.

But nobody thinks that will happen. The operators claim that the huge sums they paid in 2000 had a disastrous effect on their subsequent investment in 3G networks. It's true that the promise of the mobile internet, touted during the 3G auction, did not arrive until around seven years later.

Ofcom thinks that was more probably due to the fact that the auction took place at the height of the dot com bubble. The regulator won't say how much it expects the 4G licences to fetch. But a similar auction in Germany raised something like £4bn.

Is the UK falling behind?

Yes, if we're comparing the UK with Germany, the USA and Sweden, which have already started to roll out 4G networks. Ofcom admits that things haven't moved quite as rapidly here as it might have hoped, but says it's full speed ahead now. But even if everything goes to plan, consumers won't see any 4G services before 2013. By then the mobile operators could be struggling to cope with the torrent of data from all those video-watching, game-playing, web-surfing smartphone and tablet users.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    BT are the ones who also have a lot to lose here and should consider bidding.

    Who needs broadband if you can get a mobile dongle that can do 3-10mps (up from 1.4 from 3G) and take it with you?

    Add into this an OS (eg iOS 4.3) that enables devices to act as mobile hotspots and the days if the fixed landline could be numbered.

    Note I exclude Cable here at 50mps+, this is something BT inifitity is still only dreaming of.

  • Comment number 2.

    Am I the only one left on the planet who only uses his mobile phone for its primary designed function.... ;-) Call me a Luddite if you will - I don't care anyway - but it saves me a FORTUNE in roaming data charges and gives me peace from annoying electronic noises too!

    BTW - this 'Luddite' has a day job supporting millions of pounds worth of cutting edge SAN storage, not so much of a Luddite now, eh ;-)

  • Comment number 3.

    As I've described in the Unwired Insight blog (www.unwiredinsight.com/wireless.blog), I'm disappointed with the lack of ambition with regard to rural coverage. Setting a minimum requirement of 95% population coverage for next-generation mobile services will mean that coverage by the end of 2017 will still be inferior to 2G voice networks. A missed opportunity.

  • Comment number 4.

    Personally, I can't wait for 4G. Not because of higher speeds, but mainly because it means the widespread use of the lower Mhz bands for something better than EDGE / GPRS.

    The signal coverage problems with 3G at the moment, are partly down to the fact most networks only user the higher Mhz bands (and O2 has only just started turning on 3G on 900mhz). 4G won't have that problem because of the 800Mhz band available.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is a huge tax on the telecoms industry. I can't think of another industry that is taxed in this way. The aftermath of the 3G auctions saw mass redundancies in the telecom sector my job amongst them. I just hope that the telcos don't bid billions this time or my pension will be at risk.

    This method of taxation is just plain wrong and it hits R&D and manufacturing more than the telcos. Its the manufacturers who somehow have to carry the Telcos till they make their money back.

  • Comment number 6.

    Wow its know the U.K is embracing 4G. How fast is it realistically going to get? We know the U.K is way behind the U.S and decades behind Korea and Japan but better late than never eh? As expected the companies will over charge for this service in the first few years

  • Comment number 7.

    It's a pity that it's will resort to a "Bidding war", I have a suggestion on how to use the 800Mhz band for increasing overall internet speeds no matter who the provider is, this would require the band to end up as apart of the UK's Internet Backbone, broadcasting "Common" data (Like news articles or textures for graphics in games, 3D or virtual reality etc) in a "Satellite" Method (Meaning the orbiting of data through the network to be readily available to all). This lessens the load and overall network congestion through the standard methods of 'pulling data' from the internet.

    Let's just say the overall "Costs" for all providers to swap copper cables to fibre optics and deal with the current "two-tier" debate, could be dealt with in one fell swoop.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'd be interested to learn more about why we're falling behind. Is it Ofcom's fault or the operators for all the legal reviews they've asked for? Or both?

  • Comment number 9.

    Post 2: You're not the only one who uses his/her mobile for basic functions only, although I do include texting in that as well as calls.
    Last week I bought a new phone (a Nokia 2720) to replace my old Nokia 3330. I felt the time was right because the battery was becoming a pain - needing to be recharged 2 or 3 times a week without even being used (just kept on stand-by). Wouldn't have bothered otherwise.

  • Comment number 10.

    #MyVoiceinYrHead “Who needs broadband if you can get a mobile dongle that can do 3-10mps (up from 1.4 from 3G) and take it with you?”

    Imagine the capacity of the mobile networks is the same as the water you could get through a straw, to suggest everyone moves to using the straw is like to try and dump the contents of the north sea…through the straw - It isn’t going to happen.

    However as you kind of point out, many people want to do just that, which is why the radio spectrum is often considered to be the most expensive piece of real estate on the planet.

  • Comment number 11.

    4G? They need to get 3G rolled out completely first. If you live out in the sticks, mobile internet is a joke. 4G will be just one more way for mobile network service providers and phone manufacturers to make money whilst failing to offer a comprehensive service.

  • Comment number 12.

    It looks a great way of extracting revenue to reuce the deficit. None of the mobile operators can afford to miss out for fear of becoming the lame duck, so I predict another hard fought auction. Not sure I'll be buying shares in the mobile operators though....

    Steven Quas Collins

  • Comment number 13.

    4G will provide a better data experience without question however don't think that this is the answer to all your rural data connectivity issue's, 4G is likely to still be a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) based system and as such is likely (barring a technological breakthrough) to suffer from the same collapsible propogation issue's that 3G has hence your signal is likely to vary greatly depending on the time of day and your proximity to the transmitter.

    For all you "I still just want my phone to be a phone" lot 4G is bad news, this in effect will spell the beginning of the end for the tradition TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) networks and ultimately the end of fully connectioned transmission within the Mobile Operators networks (say "hello" to VOIP..!), in effect, you will no longer be directly connected to the person your speaking to, your call will be broken into data packets and transmitted across "cloud" based IP "Fire and Forget" protocals as opposed to the fully connectioned synchronous voice transmission you have today. Simply put, your voice call quality will drop (as packets are lost / don't arrive in time to be decoded) or you call will be lost completely as someone has decided to watch an episode of friends whilst you were making your call and has nicked all of the bandwidth.

    Fact is 4G will lead to a degridation of "real time" services such as voice calling in the short term, so lets not all open our arms and embrace this wonderful new technology without accepting its negatives first, there is, like most things in life, a price to be paid for this progress...

  • Comment number 14.

    It would be great if 3G actually worked in central London. I work in Soho and unless I tell my phone to always use 2G I cannot send or receive calls or text messages, let alone use data. It's absolutely pathetic. Mobile data works fine outside of central, but here it's almost entirely useless. A recent survey of my colleagues suggests that Three is the only provider who has a usable 3G network in this area. I'm probably going to leave Orange once my contract ends in a couple of months.

  • Comment number 15.

    When are we going to learn that this is anything more than an economic mechanism for generating additional government revenue (or tax).
    As far as the consumer is concerned it's severely damaging:
    - It restricts new entrants into the mobile phone industry and hampers competition
    - It passes on huge costs on the consumer
    - It stagnates technological development (new technologies offering better solutions, only of different radio frequencies, don't get a look in until this technology has paid its dues)
    The air we breath is free, so should radio frequencies be - Ofcom should return to the nominal charge, allocate by lottery and leave tax collection to the Chancellor.

  • Comment number 16.

    1. At 16:31pm on 22nd Mar 2011, MyVoiceinYrHead wrote:
    BT are the ones who also have a lot to lose here and should consider bidding.

    Who needs broadband if you can get a mobile dongle that can do 3-10mps (up from 1.4 from 3G) and take it with you?


    ==================================

    Have ever really tried the connection, you only get 3-10mbps if you are lucky, i have managed to stream video but only once. Most of the time its 5kpbs dial up speed and im not joking and thats on vodaphone,

  • Comment number 17.

    Having recently looked at changing from blackberry + phone for business use, until such point as networks realise they are rooking us for data roaming especially in Europe, then 4G will be a damp squib

  • Comment number 18.

    (5) Summo43 wrote:This is a huge tax on the telecoms industry.

    I'd go further than that. This is a huge tax on mobile phone users. After all, the price the 4G network providers pay for the auction will simply be passed down to their customers.

    Suppose the government raises, say, £30bn from this 4G auction.
    Suppose there are 30 million phone users.
    Divide one figure by the other and you realise that on average it will cost £750 per mobile user.
    I'd call that a mobile phone tax

    However, I don't know why I'm complaining. I haven't used my mobile phone for months now.

  • Comment number 19.

    The Tories chided Labour for not using the funds from from the 3G auction to support universities. Are the Lib/Tories willing to invest the money from the 4G auction in a fund for higher education?

  • Comment number 20.

    On it's own the topic is rather bland, I can't see the networks splashing out billions based upon their experiences of 3G and for the average end user it won't make all that much difference - even now there is something like the 10/90 effect where 10% of users make up 90% of traffic. Email, browsing and social networking use a pittance in terms of data usage, I get 500mb a month data and it's rare I use more than half of it.
    When it comes to the higher usage activities such as online gaming, audio/video streaming and video calls these tend to be done at a physical location where a wired connection exists.

    However, this issue becomes much more interesting if we combine it with net neutrality, the latter being something I am a staunch supporter of. Operators could charge companies extra rates to host on 4G and similarly charge customers extra to access 4G making it a sort of "Business Class" Internet

  • Comment number 21.

    The downside of the 3G auctions, of course, was the decimation of the UK telecom equipment manufacturing industry. But I guess it doesn't matter this time if we are 'taxing' foreign companies.

  • Comment number 22.

    18. At 19:22pm on 22nd Mar 2011, edwardjecle wrote:

    (5) Summo43 wrote:This is a huge tax on the telecoms industry.
    ====================================================

    Dozens of industries have to pay licence fees to do their business (oil/gas/minerals to name 3). This is nothing new. The process provides them with exclusive rights to make money largely free from competition. I can't imagine the companies involved would pay for the rights if they did not see a return.

    With your simplistic mathematical model you have demonstrated that you really don't get it.

  • Comment number 23.

    Are the frequency bands used by stage performers for radio microphones, musical instruments et al' safe from this tranch of frequencies up for sale ? if not, what will be offered to existing users?

  • Comment number 24.

    I have three predictions.
    1. All operators will promise their services will be better.
    2. They won't be.
    3. The operators will ask us to pay more anyway.

  • Comment number 25.

    As much as the nation could do with the cash surely much like the previous 3g auction this one will be counter productive in the long rum. What ever money is spent on the license is money not spent on infrastructure.

    Perphaps we should look towards the energy sector for an idea. Have one company formed to run the instrastructure, with all the intrested parties being represented on the board. And then let everyone 'piggyback' on it. This will insure money is spent on infrastructure, so the service is usable. But also allow for increased competition as the barriers to entry are lowered.

  • Comment number 26.

    I agree 100% Birdbat (post 22). there's some paranoid nonsense being spoken in here with total ignorance and more than a little political biased. Typical.

  • Comment number 27.

    This is so needed it's untrue. Unlike half the people that appear to have posted, I do indeed use the data on my handset, a lot ;-)

    The networks are critically over-congested... it just upsets me, deep inside, that this won't be rolled out for years!

  • Comment number 28.

    @16 Wideboy

    I've only seen Sprint demos of 4G in the US last year and it seems impressive.

    I've streamed 3G video over here for a number of years, pre iPhone the Mobile TV was of ok quality albeit low content. Now there are much more choices cut to suit mobile devices such as TVCatchup and the BBC News App.

  • Comment number 29.

    It's just another Tortoise and the Hare story...

    Lets get this straight:
    1. Mobile operators will create a gentleman's agreement over the auction price and the banks will have a very strong hand in helping them determine how much they can borrow.
    2. BT and C&W will benefit from the increased requirement for backhaul.
    3. Mobile operators will share base stations and equipment.
    4. In joining the 4G party late mobile operators will benefit form commodity equipment prices.
    4. UK data users will benefit from a robust service supplied by equipment fault tested by the first mover countries.

    Ultimately the government will not get as much as it hoped for but more importantly the UK could once and for all put an end to the digital divide and become a communications powerhouse.

  • Comment number 30.

    So there will be a bit of spectrum for people in rural areas. Yeah! Right! Did I see a pig flying by.
    Here we can't even get signals for old fashioned voice calls unless we go up a hill and stand on a stone wall or climb on the bus shelter. So, not much good for using the internet. Oh well! back to the BT line with a massive 2mb performance - if you are lucky.
    Another wonderful opportunity for the big boys to make money out of the 90% who live in urban areas as they couldn't possibly spend any profit on increasing coverage areas.

  • Comment number 31.

    #13 Neil

    For all you "I still just want my phone to be a phone" lot 4G is bad news

    Or - it's a business opportunity to set up an "old tech" network for all those tens of thousands of people who really couldn't care a monkey's left one about 3G let alone 4G!

  • Comment number 32.

    As with other sales of assets ( like with,say, planning permission for green field sites- built in social housing or community benefit) would it be appropriate to reserve some bandwidth for good causes? Perhaps community projects, or free access for Job Clubs, or free storage of images and files for schools? or emergency channels, or free weather or traffic information downloads?

  • Comment number 33.

    If Ofcom/the Government/whoever had any sense (and actually wanted the UK to be at the forefront of mobile communications any time soon), they would just take the 2.6Ghz & 800Mhz spectrum and give each network 25%.... and then tell them to shut up or lose it. In this way each network wouldn't end up spending 2-4 billion quid just buying the spectrum and instead could spend it on network infrastructure.

    Everyone would then be on an even footing. A network that wanted better coverage would have to build more cells thus allowing them to repeat the same spectrum more often over a given area.

    The result would be really brilliant coverage for everyone. Unless you are on O2 and don't live in a big city in which case it'll be rubbish anyway!

    Look at the 2000 3G auctions. All the networks paid so much for the spectrum they had no money left to actually build a network.... Duh???

    As for a network bidding to get more spectrum, what the hell is the point of that? Look at Vodafone. They paid the most and got the most 3G spectrum but they have the 2nd worst 3G coverage (behind O2)!!

    Its' not rocket science that the two networks that paid the most have the worst coverage.

    4G only has one main advantage. It allows a lot more people to share a single cell without slow downs. That's it! It's not some really amazing thing like they're trying to push it as. It will be a major improvement in highly populated areas but everywhere else 3G is just fine. 3G can get to 14.4Mbps and can run over 800 or 900Mhz spectrum. It's a lot of fuss over something and nothing.

    I can see where speed is an issue if you a have a dongle or MiFi device and it's your only source of Internet connection but come on, 3G/4G isn't going to replace fixed line any time soon simply because it's usage capacity not speed that's the real issue and for the forseeable future ADSL is always going to give you way more monthly usage than mobile data or at least will always be one step ahead.

    I live on the end of a 7.2Km phone line and get 1.4Mbps, My iPhone when connected to an Orange 3G cell gives me around 2Mbps! (HSDPA 3.6). I really can't think how a network upgrade to 7.2Mbps would make any difference on a smartphone or iPad. Most people use them for browsing, email and Facebook and just would'nt notice the difference.

    Having said all that, I am a techy person and any improvement is a good thing. Just don't fleece the networks so they can't upgrade or invest in good CS.

  • Comment number 34.

    Truthfully I'm more worried about Data roaming and capping charges and fair usage policies when things go 4g

  • Comment number 35.

    I live in the rural countryside and can't even get a mobile signal let alone use the internet! I am 6 miles outside Norwich - the mobile masts around here are disgraceful. I ended up buying a Sure Signal box from Vodafone just so I could use some of my free 1000 minutes.......Will 4G benefit me? Please explain how?

  • Comment number 36.

    The only thing that bothers me is what three network has said about this they are worried the could get pushed out off the market which will be a shame as I have been with 3 for 5 years now and love them yea they have had problems but dont all network get problems If I lose 3 network I wont be happy because all the other networks are out there just there to make money 3 cares about there customers and if they have made a mistake they will try and sort it out for you. So ofcom please make it fair and dont let the likes of vodafone take it all again

  • Comment number 37.

    @JonathanDoe and others complaining about 3G coverage.

    That is the point I was trying to make. Assuming most of the networks get a slice of the 800Mhz band, then 4G will solve your problems. The reason 3G coverage can be so patchy is because everyone uses the 1800Mhz and 2100Mhz frequency bands. Signals on these frequencies travel less distance, and have more problems getting through walls etc. The 800Mhz band will provide better general coverage, and better penetration through buildings.

    As for Neil says, I have never heard so much rubbish.
    1 - Voice will still have priority. Despite it being treated as data, networks will still be able to tell if a packet is voice or data, and so give it priority.
    2 - If anything, the quality should improve. Current VOIP solutions are much better quality than current phone calls (on the 2G or 3G networks). Hopefully, moving to a similar set up on the mobile networks will provide similar results. There is certainly no reason why the quality would drop.

  • Comment number 38.

    More short-term thinking, by people dazzled by pound signs: operators are forced to pay the maximum they can afford just for the right to operate/compete, and they in turn pass these costs onto us, their customers... Here's a better idea: why not just divide the spectrum into 4 equal parts and just hand it over free to the operators? Yes, no money for the gov in the short term, but the long term benefits to the economy would be very much greater.

  • Comment number 39.

    23. At 19:46pm on 22nd Mar 2011, Larryshaw48 wrote:
    Are the frequency bands used by stage performers for radio microphones, musical instruments et al' safe from this tranch of frequencies up for sale ? if not, what will be offered to existing users?
    ------------------------------------------------------

    I cannot remember where I saw it but there is a very detailed document that addresses the use of stage and TV production use of spectrum for radio mics and comms use. I think the document was to do with the Olympics and the huge requirement for the multiple TV stations, security services, even the extra transport infrastructure.
    There were suggestions that the analogue TV spectrum would be free for these so is the 4G auction only giving rights after the Olympics?

  • Comment number 40.

    I wonder how this will impact on WiFi network plans? O2 recently announced they were going to develop a nationwide WiFi network and there has been talk of Sky buying the cloud. With 4G comming will we still see free cheap WiFi springing up or will we all be forced to buy 4G smartphones to get faster mobile surfing speeds?

  • Comment number 41.

    That is the figure that the Exchequer is predicted to steal from you and I when it sells of airwaves licenses for 4G. Firstly, neither the Government nor OfCom own the airwaves or rights to them. They have commandeered them which is theft by force. Secondly, by asking such huge sums for a 4G license you can be sure only the biggest and most inefficient telecoms companies will be able to provide the 4G service and the cost to you and I will be vastly overpriced as these firms recoup their investment. Had any firm been allowed to operate a 4G network at little cost, the service would have been competitive and far more innovative and reasonably priced. But Big Corporations and Big Government do not want more efficient and smarter telecoms firms sticking their noses into Government/Corporate Business. Remember that money spent on licenses is money that will not be available for technological improvements. My guess for the jingle OfCom uses to promote the sell off - Taxman by The Beatles.

  • Comment number 42.

    @#41 absolishincometax - I couldn't disagree with you more if you tried.

    Firstly, the Exchequer will use the money to help against the current budget deficit - I would think with a name like yours you'd appreciate that...... I'm not naive enough to believe ever penny will be fairly used, but more money from big business is less money from Joe Bloggs.

    Secondly, "commandeered them which is theft by force". You're serious?? Can't be.

    Thirdly "you can be sure only the biggest and most inefficient companies...will buy". I guess you're not a fan of capitalism either, which again is interesting considering your monicker.... 3G licenses cost an estimated 5 times more and tons of people are using 3G. Besides, no-one is forcing you to use 4G - stick to 3G or pay for it, your call. You're one of those people who wants more whilst paying less aren't you.

    Lastly "money spent on licenses is money not available for technological improvements". Whilst initially correct, by securing a license a company will have a long lived revenue stream which it can then leverage from to provide returns for advancement, advertising, whatever it sees fit. Capitalism, see above.

    Whilst some of your points have a grain of merit, I find the whole apocalyptic/big brother angles rather played out.

  • Comment number 43.

    23. At 19:46pm on 22nd Mar 2011, Larryshaw48 wrote:
    Are the frequency bands used by stage performers for radio microphones, musical instruments et al' safe from this tranch of frequencies up for sale ? if not, what will be offered to existing users?
    ------------------------------------------------------

    Radio Microphones etc currently use between 855MHz and 862MHz with a licence and between 862MHz and 865MHz without a licence. These are not affected by the 4G frequencies being auctioned which are at 800MHz and 2.6GHz.

  • Comment number 44.

    And what if, in a fit of pique, none of the mobile operators bid for any of the to-be-released spectrum?

    Will we end up with the Government paying THEM to provide service(s) upon which the digital future of the country is presumed to depend?

  • Comment number 45.

    In Germany we had a similar situation some month ago. And our regulating authority instructed the provider to extend the capacity in the countryside. Since 6 month all of providers build new networks in metropolises an not in the countryside. I wrote an article about it (i'm sorry, but it's in german), I hope you are interested in it. Here you can find it

    Greetings from germany

  • Comment number 46.

    "Neil" wrote "4G is likely to still be a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) based system" - actually its a FDMA based access system, with OFDMA (Orthagonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) on the downlink.

    "Andrew" wrote "4G only has one main advantage. It allows a lot more people to share a single cell without slow downs". This is incorrect. Unlike 2G, and as with 3G technology, the more users using a cell the lower the data rate achieved. Priority is CS Voice traffic, then packet based, trying to give HSPA (3.5G) first and 3G (Release99) traffic afterwards, based on power availability from the cell.

    "Andrew" also commented "3G can get to 14.4Mbps and can run over 800 or 900Mhz spectrum. It's a lot of fuss over something and nothing". Again not correct. Although in theory 14.4Mb in practise HSDPA 7.2 is max in UK although I think 10.8Mbps is enabled some places. My point is actually you won't get these speeds as this is based on 1 person using whole of the cell site in perfect coverage conditions. In real life data rates average up to 4-5Mbps tops. LTE (4G) is much better. Practical real life tests show downlink speeds of 50Mbps, when theory is 300Mbps with 4x4MIMO.

    LTE will help rural areas as with 3G @ 900Mhz. Propagation loss significantly lower and cell sizes will be bigger. 2.6GHz band in urban areas, 900Mhz band in rural areas. Not sure if the other 3x LTE frequency bands may come available sometime in future...

    As for coverage, well I say again in last 5-10 years this is simply down to not being allowed to build masts. Simple physics - councils/public want no masts (nimbys), so no coverage and no signal. Simples.

    Another general point on download speeds. The radio interface can handle the data requested - but as for the backhaul capacity thats another matter entirely...

 

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