3UK Readies 4G Trial In Thames Valley

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3 becomes latest operator to announce plans to trial 4G technology next year

Mobile operator 3UK has revealed it is to run a trial of 4G technology in the Thames Valley area next year.

According to the Financial Times, the trial is set to take place in Slough and Maidenhead from March 2012, lasting for one month and will be followed by a wider range of trials later in the year for the consumer market.

Late Comer

“Our ability to provide all you can eat data packages depends on a combination of smart network management, improved technology and the spectrum that is the lifeblood of mobile,” David Dyson, chief executive of 3 UK was quoted as saying.

It is worth pointing out that 3 is not the only mobile operator in the UK to test 4G technology ahead of the upcoming spectrum auction by Ofcom. O2 has already trialed 4G LTE in central London and since 2009 has been holding its own LTE trial in Slough. Everything Everywhere is conducting a trial in Cornwall in conjunction with BT, and Vodafone has also undertaken 4G trials.

But the commercial arrival of 4G technology in the UK will only take when Ofcom holds the much delayed spectrum auction late next year.

The auction has faced many delays already and a lot of operator squabbling. Indeed, 3 UK for example had previously described the spectrum auction plan as a “boot on its head” that could force it to wind up its operations.

UK Laggard

Earlier this month Ofcom warned that 4G mobile networks may not be “widely available” in the UK for another four years, well behind that of rival countries. The regulator recently lashed out at mobile operators in the UK over their threats of legal action against the spectrum auction, actions which caused the already much delayed 4G spectrum auction, to be further delayed.

Services using Long-Term Evolution (LTE) have already been launched in the US, Germany, Japan and emerging markets such as Uzbekistan, while France’s auctions 4G spectrum auctions are currently underway.

The EU meanwhile has already told member states to get the 800MHz band cleared for mobile broadband by the end of 2012, stating that they must deliver 4G mobile broadband by 2013.

But the UK remains a 4G laggard. Indeed, the UK plan to only start deploying 4G networks in 2013 will be four years behind the world’s first LTE deployments in Oslo and Stockolm and three years behind the first commercial service in the United States.

This delay is despite a survey from the policy advisory group Open Digital in October, which warned that the delay in rolling out 4G will cost British businesses £730 million a year.