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Mobile Operator Grabs 4G Lead In UK — But Will Anything Work On It? 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-toaster-is-compatible dept.
pbahra writes "Finally, the U.K. is going to get a 4G mobile-Internet service. For a country that was once at the cutting edge of mobile telephony, its lack of high-speed mobile broadband was becoming a severe embarrassment. Everything Everywhere, Britain's largest mobile network operator, has been granted permission by U.K. regulator Ofcom to provide next-generation LTE services as early as Sept. 11. Although Ofcom's ruling is a significant step for the U.K.'s telecoms future, the choice of frequency — 1,800 MHz — means that devices that can take advantage of the much faster data speeds that LTE offers — theoretically up to 100 megabits a second — are limited. Currently the only significant market using the frequency is South Korea. While 1,800 MHz is in use in a small number of European countries, and in Australia, numbers of users are small in comparison to the U.S. This means devices may be harder to get and cost more. So, anyone who thinks their new iPad is going to zip along at 4G speeds is going to be disappointed; the new iPad only supports U.S. LTE frequencies. For the same reason, those hanging on for the new iPhone, expected to be announced on Sept. 12, in the hope that it will be LTE-compliant are unlikely to have good news. Even if there is a new iPhone, and even if it is LTE-enabled, will it operate on Everything Everywhere's frequency?"
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Mobile Operator Grabs 4G Lead In UK — But Will Anything Work On It?

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  • Japanese and Korean cell phones are way more advanced than in the US. You can watch watch OTA television programming on them!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For Japan at least, I think you're referring to 1seg [wikipedia.org] which is a separate lower resolution digital TV broadcast channel. So the OTA TV comes over ISDB, not the cellular network. All it requires is a 1seg tuner built into the hardware. Nothing at all to do with LTE, or indeed mobile telephony for that matter.

    • Re:Not a problem (Score:4, Informative)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@hotmail.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @10:39PM (#41077373) Journal

      Exactly.

      There's no shortage of 4g capable Android phones and tablets. Samsung devices (Galaxy SII, SIII etc) are all 4g multi-region capable, as are most recent phones from other vendors.

      Who cares if Apple can't get their act together with a multi-region chipset?

  • by sapphire wyvern (1153271) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @09:19PM (#41076907)

    The UK adopting 1800 MHz LTE is awesome news for Australians, since it means we're more likely to see compatible devices coming out earlier rather than later.

    iPad 3, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S III... these are all LTE devices, but not in Australia. It'll be nice when the manufacturers are now much more likely to deliver 1800 MHz versions much earlier in the product cycle.

    • Actually the Galaxy S III LTE is virtually a completely different device to what we have. E.g. only dual core, not quad core. Completely different processor.

    • My questions is, will Everything Everywhere be rolling out LTE, or will it be LTE Advanced which Three, O2 and UK Broadband are planning to roll out when they get spectrum?

      Operators were fine with the delay to getting the spectrum released as they were waiting for LTE-A to be completed. Guess you can compare LTE and LTE-A to ADSL with POTS compared to FTTP with IP phones.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    to Everything Elsewhere

  • Worrisome (Score:1, Interesting)

    by FeelGood314 (2516288)
    I'm currently working on Smart Energy products for consumers homes (ZigBee). We have devices working and interoperating in the US and else where at 2.4 GHz. The UK wants to use 900MHz because at the physical layer it has better range. I was kind of hoping the UK would give up on doing things their own way. This doesn't give me much faith.
    • Re:Worrisome (Score:4, Interesting)

      by shitzu (931108) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @01:56AM (#41078233)

      In mobile communications, it's the US that uses a "different" frequency band than the rest of the world, not UK.
      And what has zigbee's use of *unlicensed* frequency band for short range communications have to do with anything?

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      wha?

      this frequency is the same as that used in *South Korea* which makes most of all the mobile devices around. Its also used across Asia and Australia.... in fact, you could say the only place that is "doing things their own way" is the USA (crazy, I know!).

      so it doesn't appear that the UK has pulled a number out their ass, this seems to be a quite sensible decision.

  • If the iPad/iPhone won't work on Everything Everywhere's frequency, it would probably offer a small, pocket-sized mifi device.
    That way a user's mifi device would make the 4G connection and his/her iPhone/Ipad would make a wi-fi connection to the mi-fi device.
  • by johnjones (14274) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @09:40PM (#41077035) Homepage Journal

    most of Asia (not all) is scheduled to operate on 1800MHz

    Apple got fined for not working on this frequency and claiming 4G in australia so they are more than aware !

    1800 is great for Everything Everywhere as they get first mover advantage and use the same as other countries

    regards

    John Jones

    • For a country that was once at the cutting edge of mobile telephony, its lack of high-speed mobile broadband was becoming a severe embarrassment.

      Meanwhile, in America...

      Can you [buffering] he..[buffering]ar me now[signal lost]?

      • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @03:10AM (#41078563)

        What a US centric report of a UK news story

        The LTE frequency the UK is using is the same as Australasia, Asia and most of the world ...

        The only device that cannot use the Rest of the world LTE is the iPad and they have been fined already for advertising 4G when it cannot work outside the US

        Mobile coverage in the UK, 3.5G Coverage, and Broadband coverage is better in the UK than the USA ... (Behind quite a few countries in Europe though)

  • by wesley96 (934306) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @09:46PM (#41077063) Homepage
    The article seems to imply that the carrier should have adopted US LTE frequencies.

    The problem is, the North American LTE frequencies are quite different from the rest of the world. You have to expect that any NA-bound LTE devices wouldn't work on Europe or any other place.

    Here's a basic rundown of the major frequencies in use:

    North America: band 2 (1900MHz), band 4 (1700/2100MHz), bands 12/13/17 (700MHz)

    Europe/Asia/etc.: band 3 (1800MHz), bands 5/20 (800MHz), band 7 (2.6GHz)

    Because of this, even the current LTE chips with multiple frequency support has to choose between North American and European baseband firmware, necessitating separate models for NA and Europe release.

    In terms of number of carriers behind each frequencies, 1.8GHz is the second most preferred after 2.6GHz. So I think it was sensible for the UK carrier to get behind it.

    Personally, I'm waiting to see if there will be an LTE iPhone with non-US LTE frequency support. If this happens, device provision issue should lessen, as it is a popular phone - there will be a lot of demand and the competitors will release models with similar frequency support to prevent losing market share.
    • The summary suggests only a few European countries have adopted 1800Mhz. Whether that implies that those countries are the first to adopt LTE or there are other countries that chose an alternative isn't clear. But certain from a cost benefit and interoperability position, it would be prudent to use the dominant EU wide technology.

      Is the choice in the iPhone 5 even relevant at this point? Apple got some flack where I live for advertising their product as 4G that wouldn't work with our carriers but the device

      • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:18AM (#41078323)

        It's mainly that 4G rollout is still in its infancy in the EU. We're all going to be using the same frequency bands, mainly 2.6Ghz and 1.8Ghz - the plan is to eventually retire all the 2G frequencies and re-use them them for 3G, 4G or other services.

        The UK using the same bands as the rest of the EU (and most of asia) has been the plan for a long time. In this specific case, the public auctions of spectrum for 4G have not yet taken place - we have to finish turning off analog TV to free some of the spectrum planned, though it's nearly done. But EE (merged tmobile & orange) already have some spectrum 'in hand', in the 1800Mhz band that is due to be allocated to 4G, so they've been allowed to go ahead with an early 4G rollout on the frequencies they already have in the UK.

        In any case, the 700MHz band in the US is already in use by freeview (OTA digital TV), 2100Mhz is in use by 3G; I forget the others, but it's already all in use, so there was never any chance a US-bound 4G device would work in the UK, or the rest of the EU. While the old 'quad band' approach may eventually work, currently there's too many bands to support in each area; you'd need something like a 9 band 4G device for true global coverage! Too expensive, too power hungry.

        So currently ipads, iphones ship with US 4G frequency support, no matter where you buy them; which was always going to be useless outside the US, and apple got rapped for advertising 4G support prominently on their devices in the UK when they knew that they would never work in the UK or the EU. Same happened in australia, which uses the same bands.

        Eventually they'll presumably ship EU/asia 4G devices, same as they did with the 3G support where the same problem exists.

      • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:52AM (#41078471)

        Incidentally, further to my above answer, 4G rollout is in its infancy in the EU because 3.5G (HSPA+) rollout has been so large. HSPA+ is fairly comparable to LTE in speed in real world usage (though LTE can go faster with enough bandwidth and antennas, 300Mb/s vs 168Mb/s); so with 3.5G so widely available, there hasn't been the driving need to push out 4G LTE very urgently.

        I understand some mobile carriers are actually calling HSPA+ 4G in the US; which is a bit cheeky, really. On that basis, the EU has had 4G widely deployed for quite a while now...

  • Certainly the device is capable of speeds less than "4G", is it not? If it is, than surely something will work on it. If it is not then it destined to the dustbin of history. Seriously though, what manufacturer would market a device that is completely incompatible with every other existing technololgy?

  • I'm headed to England soon for vacation and need some advice on prepaid SIMs. I'm going to be mostly in the Blackpool/Preston/Manchester area... I'm going to have my first gen iPad with me which I successfully ran on a 3G prepaid SIM in Australia last year and I'd like to do that again.

    Anyone have some advice on what service to go with in that area of England? I don't need anything crazy... just a couple of gigabytes total will work.

    Thanks!

    • by Djehuty3 (1371395)
      If you want data, O2 or 3 are the way to go.

      If you want a cheap phone you can just bin at the end of your stay, Tesco sell a pay as you go for £15 - it used to come with £10 credit already on it, but I don't know if that still holds true. Tesco also just resell O2 airtime, so make of that what you will. Note that Tesco will also multiply credit at certain levels - if you put in £10, they'll triple it to £30, £15 gets you £45 and £20 gets you £60. 1GB is
      • by friedmud (512466)

        Thanks for the pointers... it's looking like 3 is the way to go. They have a £10 pay as you go plan that comes with 500MB of data. Sounds perfect for a couple of weeks and it looks like they have decent coverage where I'll be...

        Anyone have specific experience with 3 in the Preston/Blackpool area?

        • by shitzu (931108)

          Don't worry about areas. In Europe, a network usually covers the whole country and the signal is everywhere except deep in the woods.

        • it's looking like 3 is the way to go. They have a £10 pay as you go plan that comes with 500MB of data.

          I think Three is still one of the better PAYG deals, but its a shame they cut the plan down a bit a while back. When I switched to Three PAYG they did 150MB of "free" data every time you top up (minimum 5 pound) which expired after 90 days, free on-network calls, and a 5 pound bundle that gave you 2GB for a month. By the time my fiancée switched to Three they had cut the "free" 150MB so it expires after 30 days, no more free calls and the 5 pound bundle is now only 500MB. For a while, they kept me on

        • by Alioth (221270)

          I bought a 3 MiFi in Blackpool, coverage seems to be fine. I use the £10 payg data with the MiFi whenever I'm in the UK (or the £3 one day thing if I'm just passing, it's a lot cheaper than airport WiFi)

      • GiffGaff runs on the O2 network. They offer 500 MB for only £5 (or 1 GB for £7.50). You need to open the account with a minimum of £10 of credit. Just buy a GiffGaff (preferable) or O2 £10 card at any mobile top-up counter -- at petrol stations, post offices, off licences (convenience stores), etc. SIMs are free when mailed to a domestic U.K. address, but make sure to order a MicroSIM for an iPad. Activate online (via wifi). Smartphone rates are great, too.
    • If you want mostly data, I'd go for GiffGaff (5p/text, 10p/min) and get one of their data goody bags (£5 for 500MB - £12.50 for 3GB) or if you want to make a lot of calls or don't want tethering then get one of their other goody bags (£10 for 250 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited phone-only Internet). If you want calls and texts, I'd go with with TalkMobile (4p/text, 8p/min).

      For the iPad, GiffGaff plus their 3GB goody bag is probably what you want. You need to order the SIM online,

    • by XsCode (639295)
      I live in Preston and work in Blackpool. Signal wise, pretty much all UK carriers have good signals in local areas, but cost wise O2 probably have the best deal with £10/month giving unlimited data.
  • Why are the transceivers hardwired for one band? Is it really that hard to make one that's switchable between bands? Or is it the antennas?
    Sorry, dumb CSer with only basic EE here :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aXis100 (690904)

      Short Answer: Yes

      Longer answer: Yeeeeesssss

      Really long answer: Yes, it's technically very demanding at the best of times, let alone when you have to deal with size and battery power constraints.

      • by hande1 (1619561)
        I too am interested in the OPs question - but unfortunately that answer didn't give us anything.
        • The answer was correct. You've been told it is not a marketing or regulatory issue. It is very hard to make a phone that switches between lots of bands. One major reason is antenna design. If you only have basic EE, you won't know enough to understand why. Antenna theory is hard work, as is the design of very, very tiny tuned circuits with narrow passbands at microwave frequencies in close proximity.
    • by jquirke (473496)

      Sure the digital baseband is all the same, as the signal coming in is usually at a specific IF regardless of the band.

      It is the old fashioned hard wired analog circuitry that is the issue, and that is not just the antenna.

      Think filters, duplexers, etc which are designed and optimised for a certain band. Not to mention amplifiers and mixers. As someone who has designed active RF & microwave circuits, it is not easy achieving broadband filtering and impedance matching at multiple bands. So you need to hav

  • All of Apple's products support the old 3G frequencies. 1.8GHz is not in that range.
    That's why they traditionally have slower network access than any other devices
    (Android, etc.).

    The devices are "capable of 4G" but since they aren't designed to DO 4G they
    DON'T DO 4G.

    Typical apple.

    E

  • Thanks Labour. Because they managed to auction the 3G network off for such a huge, huge price, I suspect most mobile operators in the UK held off, wanting to get their moneys worth from the deal. Because it was such a huge sum, I can only assume they've dragged their feet, as our mobile networks join our broadband network in slipping way behind.

    • by Mark Hood (1630)

      The government of the time (and I'm not a fan of theirs) believed they did the best job for the taxpayer - they had a resource (bandwidth) and got a great price for it from the private sector. Do you blame the seller on eBay when all the other bidders push the price too high for you?

      And of course, they botched the sale of all our gold reserves, but that's a whole different debate.

      The operators bid high as the auction happened at the peak of the DotCom bubble, and the money was flowing nicely. Of course then

  • I'm on holiday in the UK (Scotland, that is) and I have been rather unimpressed by the cell phone coverage here. Since I'm roaming, I can see the coverage for various providers (Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2, Orange). From within buses and trains on the countryside, most of the time there is zero coverage for any provider. In villages and small towns, Vodafone/O2/Orange have 2G coverage (at crawling 1 kbyte/s-or-less speeds), but only if you are outdoors in the right street; indoors and just around the corner, the
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      Scotland is a bit of an awkward place for mobile signals - you have 1 of 2 problems.

      First, the population is small and the land is large. Hence - few masts get put up, and no masts get put up in the middle of nowhere.

      Second, Edinburgh has good coverage, but it is built like a MC Escher painting [wikispaces.com], imagine a canyon with a bridge over it, and housing/shops/pubs in the valley, and on the bridge, and in the bridge. And all made out of thick, solid stone. Its no wonder your coverage is patchy.

      • by hankwang (413283)

        "the population (of Scotland) is small and the land is large."

        I have been in Norway many times, including at remote places well above the arctic circle, which are at least as sparsely populated and it was better than here, although I sometimes had to stand upright rather than lie flat in my tent. At least I wasn't surrounded by steel.

        Now in Edinburgh trying to post this over 3.5G...

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      I use Three and travel a lot in the UK. I haven't noticed any notable coverage problems outside of losing my signals inside tunnels when on trains on my Google Nexus S.

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:18AM (#41078319)

    At least wireless companies in Britain haven't started soldering embedded SIM cards to the circuit board to force users to pay criminally overpriced international roaming charges from (*cough*) "strategic global roaming partners" when their customers travel overseas, instead of buying a prepaid SIM from a local network.

    Sadly, this isn't an artificial, contrived example. Sprint did it to their new "world" phone, the Motorola Photon Q. Apparently, Verizon is chomping at the bit to start doing the same. When I first read about it, all I could think of was the quote from 1984 about the boot stepping on a face.

  • Operators are imposing ludicrous download limits on their networks that a 4G device could probably burn through it's entire monthly allowance in about 10 minutes flat. What the hell is the point of that?

    If phone operators really want people to adopt 4G they'd better ensure that the broadband limits are high enough that they allow for reasonable usage and the price is low enough to be attractive. By reasonable I mean within the context of a device equipped with high speed internet and capable of delivering

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