Everything Everywhere, the company which resulted from the merger of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK a couple of years back, has announced that it plans to roll out its 4G LTE network this year, assuming all goes to plan on the regulatory side. EE, which oversees both carriers, says it's held successful trials of LTE on 800MHz in rural Cornwall, and that a new 1800MHz trial is due in April.
Of course, it's far from certain that either Tmo or Orange will actually be able to roll out LTE this year. The UK 4G LTE spectrum auction, which will see the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands divided up between the UK's four main operators, has been fraught with delays, and legal challenges from O2 and Vodafone.
However, the fact that Everything Everywhere is testing LTE on its existing 1800MHz 2G spectrum is interesting, and potentially puts it at an advantage compared to competing networks, which own far less 1800MHz spectrum. Vodafone, O2 and Three will have to wait on the 800MHz bands currently used for analog TV signals -- as well as the new 2600MHz bands being auctioned -- to be freed up before they can roll out 4G on these frequencies. As EE already owns great chunks of 1800MHz, in theory it just needs approval from Ofcom to use this for LTE, just as O2 did when it repurposed some of its 900MHz spectrum for 3G. It'll still take time, but it's less reliant on third parties.
And LTE on 1800MHz may present an ideal middle ground between 800MHz, expected to be used in rural areas due to its wider range, and 2600MHz, due to be used in cities with greater concentrations of signals.
Of course, it should be noted that even if the spectrum auction does go off without a hitch, these things still take time to roll out. Cell towers need to be upgraded, and devices need to work their way out to consumers. So while we're hopeful (and excited) about the prospect of real, actual 4G in the UK by the year's end, it's by no means set in stone. EE is certain to receive a some publicity for being the first network to announce its LTE plans, but equally, Ofcom and the spectrum auctions are an easy scapegoat if it ends up having to push things back to 2013.
In the meantime, the company says it's continuing its roll-out of 21Mbps HSPA+ across its 3G network, with trials of 42Mbps due to begin soon.
Source: Everything Everywhere