The auction of 3G spectrum some years ago raised £22.5BN for the UK Treasury, clearly that was an overheated affair and all of the operators who bought spectrum must have woken up with headaches from deal heat. The 4G auction was never going to achieve anything like those sums, that was always clear. That said to raise only £2.34BN was a nasty dent in the expected coffers of the UK Government and has caused some considerable headaches for the Chancellor.
So what does this say about 4G? The sluggish effect on sales for EE who were given permission to use existing spectrum for 4G will have certainly dampened appetites. The fact that they have actually lost customers over the last quarter with a big push on this USP would suggest that the UK public aren’t really that excited about the wonder of 4G.
I also think there is a realisation that it isn’t a panacea for all connectivity pains and that for data it is still more expensive than WiFi, which is why MNO’s are still seeing WiFi as a key part of their data strategy whether that be by building their own network as o2 are or by agreements to offload data to WiFi providers like ourselves.
One of the interesting bidders is BT who have said they will not be using it to launch a mobile network but will be using it for mobile broadband and WiFi services, this is something we will be watching more carefully as there are a lot of moving parts to really make this work. The fact that the costs are a mere fraction of that paid for 3G will certainly leave more to invest in rollout of the network, whilst disappointing to the Treasury it will hopefully mean we will all see better coverage than that of 3G.
With the explosion of mobile data usage 4G is certainly a very important part of the mix in satisfying the insatiable need for data that we all have, and I will very much welcome seeing the 4G symbol appear on my iPhone and iPad.
By Gavin Wheeldon