Superfast 4G Hits the UK – But Plans are Already Being Made for Hyperfast 5G

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Telecoms authority Ofcom is already making plans for the release of 5G mobile services even though 4G has only just hit the country. The UK communications regulator has apparently already begun work on the next sale of UK airwaves and will reportedly accelerate the process dramatically as soon as the sale of 4G is complete.

Even though 5G does not yet technically exists, and 4G has only just reached the UK, Ofcom needs to make preparations as the auctioning of Britain’s airwaves to make way for 5G at some point in the future is inevitable. The arrival of 4G caused problems with the UK’s digital broadcasters as they were forced to shift from their 800 megahertz spectrum to make way for 4G. Though Ofcom is yet to announce anything, it seems likely that they will be forced to move again so that the 700 megahertz spectrum they currently occupy can be devoted to mobile broadband (potentially 5G), bringing the UK in line with other countries around the world. Ofcom is expected to make the announcement later this month.

4G, on the other hand, has just been made available in 11 UK cities (London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Liverpool and Southampton) and is being hailed as a significant step forward for UK technology, bringing the country in line with other 4G countries like the US, Australia, Germany and Japan. Service provider EE (formerly Everything Everywhere) is currently the sole provider of the service and says it plans to extend 4G to Belfast, Nottingham, Derby, Newcastle and Hull by the end of the year and reach 98 per cent of the population by 2014. The service is around five to seven times faster than 3G, making it roughly on par with wired broadband connections. This means users can stream live TV without buffering and download HD films in a matter of minutes. When it arrives, 5G would provide an even faster service.

Yet despite its benefits, 4G has come under fire. EE is currently the only provider of the service in the UK and with monthly tariffs starting at £36 for just 500MB of downloads (the equivalent of two one-hour programmes on BBC iPlayer) many experts suggest waiting for the inevitable price-war when competitors like Vodafone and Three enter the fray in spring 2013. There are also compatibility issues, with some devices like Apple’s iPhone only supporting one or two networks.

Though it seems ludicrously early to be discussing 5G, Ofcom’s commitment to it shows it is serious about keeping the UK at the forefront of communications technology and preventing the sort of delays that took 4G so long to reach its shores.