Look out for a 4G Tuesday

Woman using smartphone

It's the biggest week of the year in the mobile phone world, with Apple launching its new iPhone in California on Wednesday. But for some industry watchers - at least in Britain - an event the day before in London looks even more important because at the Science Museum on Tuesday we will begin to see the shape of 4G Britain.

Everything Everywhere (EE) - that's T-Mobile and Orange to normal people who haven't spent millions on an outlandish new brand - has summoned journalists to the museum in an invitation which gives little away. "Please join us for exciting information on our new brand and the latest innovation in network technology," the company says.

The latest innovation is obviously 4G. After all, 11 September is the day from which Ofcom has allowed EE to use some of its existing spectrum for a fourth generation network, a move which has infuriated rival operators.

But another new brand? Perhaps it will be Something, Somewhere, because it isn't clear at this stage exactly what kind of 4G service will be provided to customers and in which parts of the country.

Still, I'm now hearing rumours that the event will provide news that could really shake up the mobile landscape. We had thought that EE's 4G might not be up and running until the end of the year, and then only for people using broadband dongles.

But a source tells me that the company will announce deals that will see four or five devices available very soon to consumers wanting to go 4G. On Saturday the Financial Times reported that Nokia was in talks with Everything Everywhere to make the network the exclusive launch partner for the new Lumia phones it launched in New York last week. I understand that the two Nokia phones will be among those announced for the network's 4G service on Tuesday.

Nokia was once the mobile phone leader but suffers now from seeming old-fashioned

If that is indeed the case, then it will be good for both partners. Nokia, which made little or no mention of 4G and said nothing about network deals at its New York event last week, was obviously keeping its powder dry. Now it could have a great launchpad for the Lumia 920 and 820, combining with Everything Everywhere to advertise them as the UK's first 4G phones.

The 920, which already looked a very attractive product in the brief moments I had my hands on it last week, will have something to make it stand out from the crowd - in the UK at least. For Everything Everywhere, whose 4G network may now have a year's start on its rivals, there is the opportunity to get people experiencing faster speeds and new services with a manufacturer which will be very keen to cooperate.

But there are a couple of shadows looming over the Everything Everywhere event. The fact that it is being held the day before Apple's launch suggests either that the network does not have a deal to sell the new iPhone, or that the device will not be compatible with its particular brand of 4G. One imagines that EE's executives were desperate to offer Apple just about any deal, in order to be the only operator offering a 4G iPhone in the UK, but it now seems unlikely that will happen. Of course, if it does, then Nokia's phone will look much less attractive.

The other shadow is the one that has darkened the outlook for 4G in this country for years, the threat of legal action. Ever since Ofcom announced its ruling allowing Everything Everywhere to go ahead with its early 4G plan, Vodafone and O2 have been muttering darkly about doing something to stop it.

Both know that any legal move which stopped consumers getting a service already available in many parts of the world would make them look bad. But if the service unveiled on Tuesday looks like a real threat to their profits and market share, they may decide that they cannot afford not to unleash their lawyers.

A fascinating week ahead then in the chess game which is the UK's mobile phone market - we will try to keep you abreast of all the latest moves.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Is any normal person going to be able to afford the kit or the monthly contract, and even if they can what good will 4G do them? Is being able to watch a video whilst on the move REALLY of any use? So much tech these days is impressive, but of little real, practical value and 4G's just another example of this. No doubt the networks will convince the sheep that they NEED it, as Apple does...

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I have a Electronics & Comm's MSc but made the error of signing a contract with EE earlier this year. Their network from the masts back to the web and more is so slow/poor, most people would do better with 2.5G from another provider... I hope public don't judge 4g by the terrible service provided by Orange / Tmobile / EE (their call centres are if anything even worse than tech infrastructure).

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    31. And that is why privatisation on some things (services considered as basic) is a good thing, and why some should never have been privatised.

    Royal mail, BT, BG, Electricity, Water, Rail, Schools - especially fit in this category right. TV is about the only thing that has it balanced right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I live just 3 miles from the centre of Cheltenham (a town with over 100,000 population), and we haven't even got 3G yet!

    So if we we can 'jump' to 4G (on all networks), that would be a huge improvement.

    Surely all networks should be allowed to provide 4G at the same time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    26. Coffeesurfers "As a result, we get consistent 3g speeds of 10Mb/s and a ping rate between 50-60ms - who needs 4g with speeds like this (thanks 3 mobile)"

    50/60 ms ping? I get 16msping with data-rates of 38Mb/s (and 8Mb/s up) at home

    I think I still prefer the less expensive wired internet connection!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    It's good that 4g has finally come to the uk but I do think it is unfair that other operators have to wait until next year to roll it out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    28 jurassicflood

    Unfortunately that's the nature of the market. Unless obliged to to do so by the state, no service provider is going to invest in infrastructure in rural areas unless it washes its face in terms of increased revenues. Add to that the small number of suppliers, and the way in which most customers pay for their calls/data, and you end up with poor connectivity in rural areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    If you have the cash and like the shiny then please do leap in as an early adopter. Personally I'll wait a few years until all the bugs have been ironed out.

    As to it being faster - yeah, I've heard that before. My 50meg bandwidth still only gets You Tube videos at 7mbs. It's not the device that determines speed it's the quality of service (QOS) used by the provider.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    @mfraser: We might as well give up, everyone else has stomped all over the ITU's definition. I, for one, will call it simply "LTE" and drop any notion of 3G/4G/anyG whatsoever.

    For the rural folk, LTE should actually be a big boon as from next year it'll be deployed in the 800Mhz band, which propagates much further than 2100Mhz 3G or even 900Mhz 2G. 2600Mhz LTE will be used for cities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Yet again people like me who live in rural areas are abandoned. Sure cities generate business and wealth but do you think the countryside is here just to give city-dwellers something different to look at? Rural businesses need good connections just like anyone else but my guess is that Chipping Norton will be the only rural area to benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    26 Coffeesurfers

    If you happen to live in an area with a good 3G signal and don't want to use your mobile device beyond the confines of your own home, then you don't need 4G. Unfortunately, your experience of 3G isn't a particularly common one, from what I understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    When we moved house, we were fortunate enough to get a near perfect mobile phone signal. As a result, we get consistent 3g speeds of 10Mb/s and a ping rate between 50-60ms - who needs 4g with speeds like this (thanks 3 mobile)


  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Can we please stop calling it 4G? It may be faster than 3G at the moment as hardly anyone is using it, but it isn't near fast enough to be called 4G by the ITU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Neil Postlethwaite

    Thanks Neil, I actually knew that (as you guessed)!

    But it still does not explain why there is insufficient 2G/3G phone capacity to even get a connection some times of the day, let alone a usable data-rate!

    Or are K&C objecting to more phone masts too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Still can't get BT Infinity here either!
    That is the problem of Kensington and Chelsea Council, objecting to 95% of BT's fibre Cabinet planning applications. A frustrated BT threw in the towel and went elsewhere where wanted.


  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    4G !!!!

    How about O2, Vodafone, Everything Everywhere (sic) and 3 finish building out their 3G networks, rather than 4G as no-one in the UK has a 4G phone.

    3G coverage and speed in the UK is laughable, and nationally embarrassing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Hmm how can we shoehorn an apple product into this story?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    People are asking why the iPhone 5 has been mentioned by Rory. Simple. It is purported to feature 4G LTE, and is said to be supported by most global 4G networks (although perhaps not EE's). So, very relevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    If Vodafone's market share is heading south it may have more to do with their dismal customer service than any failure to get their 4g ducks in a row, although I'm sure that won't help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Had to try to explain 5 different connectivity options...

    Mobile Internet, wifi at home, bluetooth, wifi hot spots and satellite coms - each with a different use profile and cost - the poor soul hadn't a chance - and Skype on mobile devices as against making mobile phone calls.

    The marketing men have done their usual trick confusing the punter so they over spend. Isn't there a law against it!


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