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Cheap 4G Could Be On the Way

16 Dec 2014

The main issue many mobile users had when 4G launched in the UK was that it was just too expensive. This is partly because unlimited 3G tariffs have been around for a long time, proving themselves to be very popular. A typical mobile user may see no reason to upgrade to 4G, especially if the service offers them less data for a higher premium.

However, Ofcom have recently announced plans that could result in faster and cheaper 4G throughout the UK. The organisation has decided that frequencies reserved mainly for digital TV and wireless microphones should switch over to the frequencies set aside for mobile broadband.

How will this result in cheap 4G?

At the moment, digital TV broadcasts in the same frequency range as 4G, which means the 4G protocol has less bandwidth to broadcast on. By forcing digital TV services, such as Freeview, to move from their allocated band of 700MHz, this frees up space at the lower end of the broadcast spectrum.

This is extremely useful for 4G; the lower the frequency a network broadcasts on, the better it carries over longer distances. At present, the lowest frequency the 4G network broadcasts on is 800MHz, which means this update will see an extra 100MHz of bandwidth being made available.

In theory, this should result in even better coverage in rural areas and signal blackspots. In addition to this, it is thought it will also drive 4G prices down, due to the fact mobile networks would have to invest less money in fixing signal issues, reducing their overall operating costs.

Yet, it is important to note that any potential savings are entirely up to the network providers. If they want to cut prices in line with their reduced operating costs, then that’s great. Similarly, they could leave prices as they are and rake in extra profit – the ball is entirely in their court.

Cheaper 4G is not guaranteed, but 4G performance will increase

Whilst the announcement does not include any commitment from network operators to offer cheap 4G options, it does definitely suggest we can expect boosted performance from the 4G protocol. More bandwidth should lead to better data speeds and a more reliable connection, which is great news for everyone.

The news comes as a great indicator of Ofcom’s overall strategy towards the LTE network. The organisation is giving the network the room it needs to develop, which is certainly a good thing. The switch-over is scheduled to take place between 2020 and 2022, so it is a little way off yet. However, by that time, the 4G network will have grown massively, with the switch-over laying the foundations for the network to continue to grow in the future. In fact, the switch-over will be a massive boost to the network operator’s goals of near universal 4G coverage in the UK.

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