Mobile communications giant Everything Everywhere, a group formed by the amalgamation of Orange and T-Mobile, has announced that it hopes to start offering a limited 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) service before the end of the year.
According to the company's statement, it's going cap-in-hand to communications regulator Ofcom to be allowed to repurpose a portion of its 2G frequency allocation. By shaving some of the 1,800MHz band and shuffling its usage, it hopes to offer a 4G service to 'a small number of customers' before the end of the year.
It's a big move: while 4G networks are becoming increasingly common in the US, they're relatively unheard of in the UK. Designed as a next-generation replacement for the current 3G standard and capable of scaling for future expansion, the most common 4G standard LTE promises download speeds for tablets and smartphones of up to 1Gb/s and upload speeds of 500Mb/s.
Compared to HSPA, the most common 3G standard, that's a major increase: most networks currently offer around 14Mb/s downstream peak, although the newest version of the standard theoretically scales to over 300Mb/s with octa-cell and multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technologies.
A nation-wide rollout of 4G service doesn't just hold the promise of faster mobile downloads, however. It's becoming increasingly common for people to use USB mobile broadband dongles. While these offer between 14Mb/s and 24Mb/s at peak, a 4G version could theoretically offer speeds that would rival the best wired connection around at the cost of only slighly increased latency.
'Subject to regulatory approval by the spring, Everything Everywhere will be in a position to begin the rollout of 4G before the end of the year,' claimed Everything Everywhere's Olaf Swantee in a statement regarding the move. 'There is a great opportunity for the UK to have the 21st-century network that it so deserves, putting the nation on a level playing field with other parts of Europe, the USA and Asia.'
Ofcom has indicated that it will consider Everything Everywhere's plan, and provide feedback on the application to shuffle its frequency allocations some time in the first quarter of this year.