I rejoined the mobile operator Three UK in August 2013 after a 7 year stint within the managed services arm of Ericsson, prodominately providing services back into Three but also all of the other mobile network operators in the UK . The team I managed throughout 2012 & 13 were heavily & directly involved in the rollout of the transmission network enabling EE’s 4G launch in October 2012 and as I prepared to leave the company and move back to Three were doing exactly the same for Three’s 4G launch.
August 29th 2013 was an interesting date as the rest of the major MNOs in the UK announced their 4G launch plans including Three making public their intention to switch on their 4G network to all customers with compatible handsets and subject to 4G coverage at no extra cost.
Those with an IOS device on Three would have had updated carrier settings sent to them just before Christmas.
4G on Three is coming soon.
So to my title will 2014 be the year of 4G for the UK ?
Each mobile operator will be expanding their coverage map throughout the year. A quick glance at the coverage checker on the website of each MNO and it is clear that EE are still streets ahead in terms of coverage but all operators have plans this year and will be rapidly enhancing their 4G footprint.
Device penetration will increase, certainly for Three this means that a large percentage of their customers will be able to experience 4G once coverage reaches them. For the other operators it will hinge upon the tariffs and bundles in place to entice the UK consumer to make the change.
Ultimately the change to 4G in the UK will be driven by demands of the customer. The continuous and seeming insatiable desire for bandwidth on the move will continue to drive operators like Three and others to make the change to their networks, because where there is demand there is a customer base.
The challenge for mobile operators is to complete these upgrade programmes whilst at the same time maintaining or by necessity increasing network availability and quality.
As for me at Three I am looking at what comes next and how the transmission network has to evolve.
The future looks very promising for the mobile industry but it will look different.