While setting up a TomTom satnav (others are of course available) for a relative recently I noticed on their site you could purchase a William Daniels voice pack for their devices.
If you are a fan of the classic 80s series Knight Rider like me you will know that Mr Daniels was the original voice of KITT, the pretty much indestructible car with a razor sharp wit that regularly saved Michael Knight’s bacon.
Seeing this reminded me how much I loved the series when I was a kid so I had to buy the DVD boxset (the less said about the 1998 and 2008 remakes the better)
Watching a few of the episodes got me thinking, as 4G is expanding and the computing power that can be tapped via the cloud increases on a minute by minute basis could such a car be built with the human interaction code hosted in the cloud utilising neural network technology?
Yes I know Google are testing self driving cars and some are being put into service in Milton Keynes but I doubt very much these will have a personality at the moment.
Obviously anything safety related would be in the car itself in case of a loss of signal for example but wouldn’t it be a cracking idea to ask your car to drive you home after a session at your preferred watering hole or after a busy day at work, there would at long last be a use for that smart watch you’ve had your eye on.
I doubt the Department for Transport would approve the turbo boost function though, either to allow you to get somewhere quick or to jump over obstacles which would be a shame eh?
I’ve been getting updates re the O2 4G rollout schedule.
29th August – London, Leeds, Bradford
27th September – Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield, Coventry
17th October – Liverpool
24th October- Glasgow
31st October – Manchester
19th November – Newcastle, Edinburgh, Huddersfield and Wetherby
I’m not sure how the logic works for this rollout. I can understand how networks go for the big metropolitan areas first to get the biggest bang for their early buck. How did Huddersfield and Wetherby slipped into this list? Either there is a little dice rolling going on or someone accidentally pushed the wrong button. Maybe some Telefonica director has a holiday home in Huddersfield? Plausible. Don’t diss the thought 🙂
I look forward to seeing my home town Lincoln on the list. It is very close to being announced by EE – there is a 4G signal in the city. I happen to know that one cell site is already up and running with two more in the pipeline. Watch this space.
Check out the O2 and Vodafone 4G test trip in London here.
Just a 4G quickie. Catching a busy commuter time train back nowf and couldn’t even get a sniff of a connection on the on board wifi. Almost certainly a good thing – if it can’t hook up using DHCP then there are so many people trying to access it that the performance will be so bad as to effectively be unusable.
4g broadband can be used as a replacement for a fixed broadband service
Blog reader Mitch left a comment about how he now uses VoIP over a 4G line that has replaced his fixed broadband connection. His broadband had always been rubbish and 4G is now giving him speeds as fast as fibre broadband. I asked if he would be willing to tell the story. It makes for a very interesting read that many will be able to identify with. It may also give hope to those folk in the “final third” who are the 2nd class citizens of the UK when it comes to connectivity.
Using up the last of the battery on this Chromebook from my garret at a Travelodge in London. I’m hanging off the Huaweii MiFi with a 4G sim. I’m sure I’ve said it before but I have to say it again the experience is terrific. Seriously useful for business. Pages load up almost instantly. It’s as if I was using my home WiFi and my FTTC line. Fair play:)
Google Hangout for 54 minutes using Samsung Chromebook and EE4G Huaweii MiFi clocks up 315Megabytes.
Just had a very pleasant 54 minutes video call with Sweyn Hunter using Google+ Hangout. My Huaweii 4G MiFi (courtesy of EE) tells me that it used approximately 315MB of bandwidth – probably slightly less as I did some emails before hand.
At Sweyn’s end he had “good old fashioned BT ADSL” with maybe 512k uplink speed. He lives in Orkney. The video quality was great though it did freeze two or three times in the 54 minutes. The only slight issue was an element of half duplex/one way speech in that if he was speaking and I tried to speak at the same time. I quickly got used to that and it didn’t detract from the quality of the conversation.
Also 54 minutes was a long hangout for what was just a casual chat – I’ve never met Sweyn but converse with him from time to time on Twitter – @sweynh – I’m sure he won’t mind me telling everyone. The point being that if we were comfortable having a 54 minute video conversation the quality must have been good – otherwise we would have cut it short.
Sweyn is an interesting bloke I’m sure he won’t mind me saying – you should follow him. He is organising an Island Govcamp in Orkney next year on 6th and 7th September.
Might try a hangout using O2 and Vodafone sims in my various phones next time. It will be interesting to see if personal video calling is going to at last get mainstream with 4G. Bandwidth cost is still going to be an issue. You can work out for yourselves how quickly you will eat up your own data bundle.
Sat in my garrett at the Cromwell Hotel in London getting ready to to a 5.30 meeting. There is great 4G coverage here from O2, Vodafone and EE. The hotel WiFi is totally pants. It’s so slow it won’t even connect.
During my 4G test trips I already concluded that it is better to use 4G than the WiFi of a pub or cafe. I can tell you after my scientific survey (sample size one) that this is also the case in hotels.
It’s such a pleasure to have the connectivity on the move. This post is coming from my Samsung Chromebook hooked up to the Huaweii MiFi loaned to me my EE. On the train on the way down I also used the MiFi – it was tucked in my coat pocket so to all intents and purposes the Chromebook was “just accessing the internet directly”.
Now all I need to do is to figure out how to convert Microsoft presentations to Google format (see previous post).
Pics below are screenshot of speedtest on O2 4G on Samsung Galaxy S4 plus screenshot of “error” message when it failed to connect to Cromwell Hotel WiFi.
It’s offical, at this Best Western Hotel, 4G is best 🙂
Yesterday I sat on a panel discussing 4G at the Convergence Summit South trade show in Sandown Park. The audience was largely resellers of communications services. What you would traditionally call a PBX reseller.
In terms of expectations of what 4G would do for this channel it would appear that it was very much a case of wait and see. There are some sceptics who go as far as to that “4G is just a faster version of 3G and won’t really have any specific applications and uses”.
Well I think they are wrong. 4G may well be “just a faster bearer” but it is going to open up opportunities in the communications market that weren’t there before.
For example Timico does a lot of good business selling 3G cellular back up solutions for broadband lines used to carry credit card transactional data. This type of application doesn’t need the bandwidth capabilities that 4G can offer (although 4G’s faster ping times could have a role to play here).
This type of back up application is not used nearly as much to back up ADSL lines to offices. 3G just isn’t good enough for this other than as a very basic means of accessing the internet. If you rely on your broadband for VoIP then it ain’t going to be any use over 3G, as much as anything because half the networks block VoIP (note to self to do net neutrality update post).
Now something is happening in the communications market in the UK and that is FTTC, Fibre to the Cabinet, fibre broadband, call it what you will. The superior speeds of FTTC make a huge difference to how businesses and indeed consumers use the internet. They are starting to make use of online resources like they have never before.
Witness the aggressive promotion of the Samsung Chromebook. Not only did I get 100GB of free Drive storage (ok only for two years by which time Google hopes I’m hooked enough to buy more) but I also get a free Galaxy phone. When I got my Samsung Galaxy S4 they gave me two years of free 50GB Dropbox which I am very much starting to use.
All this is driving the market towards using more and more of the cloud.
Now businesses when they start to rely more on cloud services are not going to be happy if their internet connection goes down. These things do happen, regularly.
With an increasing availability of 4G it is going to be a no-brainer for business to have a 4G backup for its FTTC connection. The speeds, assuming you can get coverage, are pretty much identical. In fact 4G is likely to give a better uplink speed than FTTC.
4G networks do not (currently) block VoIP applications such as Skype and have latencies that are going to be able to support other real time applications. I can’t see 4G replacing FTTC in a business connection because of the cost of bandwith.
This may not apply for certain demographics in the consumer market. The only reason we have a phone line in our house is because it supports our data connection. The only people that phone it are scammers from Indian call centres and anti social pariahs trying to sell me PPI miss-selling compensation.
For a single person leaving home, saving on the cost of a phone line and broadband might well be enough to offset the additional bandwidth costs of a 4G subscription. I digress.
The upshot is that I think that the combination of FTTC and 4G is going to be a real driver for sales of mobile subscriptions and that the resellers sat in that room listening to the panel discussion should all be thinking of how they can add mobile into their portfolio. If you like think of it in terms of increasing ARPU for broadband sales.
On a similar but different note I met with EE last week for a chinwag on life, the universe and 4G. I had been pretty critical about the EE efforts to sell 4G (see post here). However soon after I wrote that post their subscriber uptake rocketed and I think they may well have now reached a million subs.
It would seem that this increase in interest is due to a combination of market reach (ie more people can now get 4G), growing awareness due to the continued marketing effort and more people coming up to contract renewal. The entry of the O2 and Vodafone into the market will also help by creating even more market awareness.
This same dynamic is going to happen in the business comms market. There will come a time where 4G is generally available, more or less, to all businesses and they will start to use it.
Obvious really. Ciao.
PS if you want to talk more about this drop me a line.
PPS I was driving past Coventry earlier this week and noticed an O2 4G signal on my phone. Hey Coventry, it’s on it’s way to you next 🙂
It’s the middle of May. The 4G auctions were in February. We are all waiting with bated breath for announcements of service rollouts. Last time I looked was when I was preparing for my 4G talks at Convergence Summit North. The word on the web was “summer”. No specifics. In fact the O2 website said summer but I’m not sure that Vodafone even said that.
Now I’m writing a 4G update for Comms Business and thought I’d take another look. O2 has removed the reference to a summer availability but has not offered an alternative. I suspect that this means Christmas which is the big payout time for mobile networks. The Vodafone website just says “later this year”.
I guess this isn’t likely to come as a surprise. A 4G network rollout will be a lot of work and cost a lot of money so I guess there is a scenario that O2 and Voda will be pacing their investment.
There is a race on here though. I hear EE already have around 330,000 subscribers and say they are targeting 1 million by the end of the year. If O2 and Voda don’t get their act together that will mean EE will be ahead of them to the tune of 1 million customers, higher spending customers, by the year end.
Personally I don’t think 330,000 is a particularly good result for EE considering they have had the market to themselves for over six months even though their ARPUs might be good. Also the EE marketing appears to me to be less than optimal. I recently spoke to an EE reseller who said that the product strategy wasn’t particularly joined up. The company apparently sells to consumers through EE, small businesses through Orange and larger businesses through TMobile1 with three different hardware portfolios and different sets of pricing. If I were EE that is one thing I’d be looking to sort out.
In fairness EE will have the same coverage rollout issues as being faced by the other mobile operators so there will only have been a limited segment of the market available to them in that first six months. Word is that EE will have reached 80 towns by the end of June. By the end of April that number was 62 covering 50% of the population.
According to the Ofcom Communications Market Report 2012 in 2011 there were 82 million mobile connections. Assuming the number is still the same today that would suggest that around 0.8% of the available market (330k/41m) is on EE 4G after 6 months. I guess the next six months are going to be crucial in the race. EE will have had a year’s head start on the others, assuming my Christmas guess is right. If they can sort out the marketing then if I were EE I’d be disappointed with only a million subs by the end of the year.
If I were O2 and Vodafone I’d be stepping up the pace of their own 4G rollout. The two operators are jointly building out the network, ultimately to 18,500 cell sites and according to the Vodafone blog splitting the work 50/50. It would be interesting to see how their respective rollouts are doing. Who is going to get there first in the partnership? If they are doing half the work each presumably they will be announcing the service at the same time. The timing of these announcements is therefore likely to be quite critical. Get there first and presumably get the marketing advantage. Get there second and you can tailor your own pricing and packaging competitively knowing what the other guy is offering. Get there at the same time and risk accusations of a cartel.
Whatever happens it looks like I will have to wait until Christmas before I get a 4G connection – my phone is with O2 and my laptop with Vodafone. At least I’ll know what to put in my letter to Santa.
1It may be the other way round re TMob & Orange marketing.
Twitter informs me that EE has launched its 4G broadband service in Cumbria. Great. Their press release tells us that their coverage extends over nearly 100 square miles and over 2,000 residents, many of whom are homeworkers.
A quick scan shows that this news is all over tinterweb. For some reason no one other than B4RN sends me press releases so I don’t have a blog post already written about this one :). Not that that is a big deal – most of the stuff out there just regurgitates the press release which ain’t particularly imaginative or value add.
What would be interesting to see is the business case put together within EE for the service. Prices apparently start from £15.99 a month and presumably scale up based on bandwidth consumption. Assuming the take up was in line with the national uptake for broadband (74% in Q1 2011 according to Ofcom) and bearing in mind the lack of competition then that would give EE 1,480 * £16 = £23,680 a month or just shy of £300k a year revenues. I would guess they will be able to make money out of that. I’d also expect users signing up for this service to buy other EE services so I should think the overall revenues will be quite a bit higher.
Out of interest I went into EE’s availability checker it told me that the service wasn’t available in Cumbria yet! I don’t live there anyway!! If I did live in Cumbria I would buy the service and find out what this internet thing is all about.
Ofcom has announced the bidders in the 4G spectrum auctions. There are seven in total. Thought about bidding myself but I didn’t really have a firm plan of what to do with it if we managed to secure the spectrum.
The bidders include all the ones you would have expected – EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 in their various official corporate guises. Also PCCW who already offer a limited 4G fixed line replacement service in the UK. Then we have a company called MLL Telecom which has existing mobile spectrum licenses and provides managed networks in the UK.
Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited, otherwise known as BT. This business was only registered in June of this year and has already had two name changes: initially BT Facilities Services Limited (until sept 2012) and then BT Ninety-Two Limited (changed only last month).
I don’t have any inside track here – BT is being very tight lipped regarding their plans – but if I were a betting man I’d say this was another step on the road to BT becoming a fully fledged mobile network operator, again.
At some stage after divesting itself of Cellnet BT realised it needed to be in mobile and so is now an MVNO, partnering with Vodafone. Buying 4G spectrum would be a natural step forward here.
Modern 4G kit is very flexible and can carry multiple operators networks – both in the modem and in VLANs applied to the various backhaul circuits. BT, with its own spectrum would be able to easily launch 4G services piggy backing on someone else’s existing infrastructure and the company has good relationships with both Voda (through the MVNO) and EE from its work in the Cornwall superfast broadband project. Indeed the company won an award earlier this year for demonstrating the solution that could be used in a country wide 4G rollout.
It would be a big move for BT, upping its mobile ante, especially as the incumbent mobile operators are fighting a headwind of revenue erosion, but converged networks are the way forward and for a company of BT’s size it has to have a mobile play.
That’s my bet and I’m sticking with it. We will find out soon enough.
I note the Beeb is reporting today that people are saying the cost of signing up to an EE 4G plan is too high.
There are always going to be whingers. Either people will like the pricing or they won’t. It’s a straight business decision on the part of EE. Network operators are under constant margin pressure because they have chopped their pricing too much in the past. 4G represents an opportunity to build value into their businesses.
My biggest concern is how successful they will be in adding additional margin generating services to their portfolios. If you look at the EE pricing then everyone gets unlimited voice and texts and they are just offering variable charging based on data consumption. On its own this isn’t enough but I’m not sure I see networks successfully adding other services that people are willing to pay for.
Just spoke with an Orange customer service representative. They sent me an email asking if I’d like to sign up for an iPhone5. Here’s the rub. Nobody has a date for availability of LTE yet. Moreover Orange and TMobile won’t be offering it. You will have to go to a brand new company known as EE to get the service.
I’m thinking this is likely to be the beginning of the end for the Orange and TMobile brands. In time all services will be 4G and according to this logic existing Orange and TMobile customers will have mostly migrated to EE. Quite clever.
The Orange person was unable to give me a date for when EE would be up and running or when one would be able to sign up for 4G though anyone buying an iphone5 from them now could be migrated in due course.
The iPhone5 est arrive. This year has seen a long list of major events come and go. Now it’s the turn of the iPhone5. Ordinarily this would do nothing for me. From what I can see the spec, in the main, is no better than the Samsung GalaxyS3. I’m not a zombie fanboi, activated by keywords in Apple marketing material, programmed to obey unquestioningly, asking only how much money to profer on the altar of the fruit.
The one feature that the iPhone5 has that makes me think about getting it is support for 1,800MHz. This is a massive coup for EE (eh?). We don’t have a real list of LTE alternative handsets yet. All the main manufacturers are on the list. I don’t want two S3s (my current phone is an S3 on O2) and I don’t see a compelling enough reason to go Lumia.
My attitude to Lumia might change when Windows8 is properly launched but for the moment it aint. So it looks like iPhone5 then.
I’m not totally convinced. Do I really want to toss my principles aside for the sake of using a LTE service that won’t work in my home town using a handset that won’t roam on any other network?
I was back in my London pied a terre garret last week – the Kings Cross Traveloge (header photo is view from my room lifted from their promotional literature). I was heading out to dinner for the evening but hooked up to the O2 LTE trial service to finish off some stuff.
I was getting 15Mbps down which was good. Seeing as I was going to be out all evening I decided to run a usage test based on 5 video streams. I loaded 3 iPlayer and 2 ITV streams (for a bit of variety – no other reason though I’d consider myself more of a BBC man than ITV – it’s Blue Peter versus Magpie for those of a certain age) and watched the usage grow.
The screenshot below is at the beginning. I’d been online for 39 mins and in that time downloaded 135MB.
Ever wondered how they go about deciding where to put a new cellular base station? It’s a fairly complicated process. It’s also very much site specific, awkward locations, landlords, etc. but as an average the following table is a fair reflection of the effort (source Accelera Mobile Broadband with some O2 validation).
New site verification
On site visit: site details verification
On site visit: RF survey
New site RF plan
Neighbours, frequency, preamble/scrambling code plan
Interference analyses on surrounding sites
Implementation on new node(s)
Field measurements and verification
7.5 man days
Now just imagine the urban 4G/LTE scenario we have been discussing, where there are ten times as many small cells as in the existing macrocell model. Research org ABI has forecast that there will be 5 million small cells by 2015.
That’s a lot of site surveys using the traditional model. A lot of man days. The only sensible answer is to deploy Self Organising Network. SONs seem to have some way to go before they are mature enough for full scale deployment but there is time, in the UK at least.
A SON has, in theory all the features you might expect from the name. Cells should self-configure, regularly self-optimize parameters and algorithmic behaviour in response to observed changes in network performance and atmospheric conditions. Self-healing mechanisms can be triggered to temporarily compensate for a detected equipment outage whilst waiting for a permanent fix. Nirvana really – plug and play. As we have already found out in the lamp post story plug and play is probably some time away but it will come.
Ever thought about where to site your mobile data connectivity service? I have to admit I’ve not spent much time on it myself. I’d probably come up with a topographical map of where I was providing the service and plan a series of base stations to give me optimum coverage – most bang for my buck. Nothing new really.
That’s why the chart on the right makes interesting reading. Provided by Ruckuswireless the graph shows the relative demand density for data usage in Mbps per 10m2 based on type of location. Most of the high demand locations are indoor. The high street, which is where most of us would think of putting in capacity ranks 8th.
In the wifi hotspot game first mover advantage is becoming critically important. Experience shows that landlords everywhere are initially happy to allow a network provider into their mall/stadium/building. Once in however they decide they don’t want the hassle of doing it again or don’t really like the infrastructure they are now stuck with but have to keep.
As a result there is a market for the first movers in reselling capacity or subletting space on their infrastructure. We are therefore seeing a land grab in places around the world where operators are snapping up as many sites as they can.
In London The Cloud is looking at 1 hotspot per 200 persons. Time Warner is putting 15,000 wifi access points in Los Angeles and PCCW have 10,000 hotspots in Hongkong where peak time traffic has 50% going over wifi instead of mobile networks. For PCCW in Hong Kong their resold wholesale wifi capacity is their single biggest revenue stream1.
Spectrum is the key resource in the mobile network game. It is what the operators paid billions of pounds (arguably too much too soon) each for during the 3G auctions. Users for the services weren’t there and nor were the handsets that would encourage bandwidth consumption.
It is a different game today. Don’t be surprised to see even greater sums of money paid for 4G spectrum. It would be commercial suicide for a mobile operator to not have any.
Spectrum when allocated is then divided into 20MHz bandwidth slots. 20MHz of spectrum allows for an 80Mbps data throughput using LTE. If you double this to a 40MHz slot you double the throughput. The higher the spectrum frequency you have therefore the more capacity your network can handle.
The downside is that the higher the spectrum frequency the lower the range and the harder it is to penetrate objects such as buildings. The lower frequencies are preferred for rural deployments – Vodafone in Germany used 800MHz for this. There isn’t a “right mix” of spectrum to own however. Vodafone operates in 30 markets and each market has different spectrum requirements.
The mobile networks are built up from thousands of base stations around the country, connected back to the operators’ core networks using a variety of backhauls. Once the media hits the core network the voice/data session is directed as appropriate.
The backhaul technology has developed over time from E1s/ATM to Ethernet (fibre) with wireless connections thrown in where necessary.
Base stations, known in the business as Macrocells, contain the transmission and battery backup equipment to support a variety of call and data handling capacities (typically up to 250 simultaneous users) dependent on location. This equipment has historically taken a lot of space – it would probably fill the average master bedroom at home, requires expert installation and, because there is a mast involved to hold antennae at some height, needs Local Authority planning permission.
Technology developments mean that this kit can now fit into a single wardrobe.
If you’re wondering what these seemingly random travel related posts are its because I’m in Dresden this week at the IWPC workshop on LTE small cell deployment strategies. Very interesting. These are long days though so you will probably have to wait until I get home for a report.
The video is of the funicular railway that took us up to the Luisenhof restaurant in Dresden. The view from up there is spectacular, or so I’m told. It was chucking it down when we were there so we couldn’t see much. We probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway – far too engrossed in the subject of LTE small cells.
The pic on the right is a sample of what the very excellent restaurant had to offer.
Continuing with the day’s theme of the O2 LTE (4G) trials I found myself back in the Devonshire Arms with Cliff Saran of Computer Weekly. I’ll leave most of the story to Cliff and his column but I herewith provide you with the video footage of 4 more iPlayer streams – we could have streamed more but screen size becomes an issue.
At the Piazza in Covent Garden I uploaded a 298MB video in eight minutes at 9Mbps uplink speed.
In the Devonshire Arms I videoed the process of setting up the iPlayer streams and then uploaded that video again to YouTube so that we could compare performance with the Covent Garden upload.
In an idle moment last night whilst simultaneously watching the snooker and browsing Twitter I asked the important question of our time. Does anyone have a favourite agricultural equipment? This was totally random but it was amazing how many people responded – all blokes.
Rob immediately came back and said “David Brown tractor” as his dad used to build them. That’s cool especially as it turns out David Brown used to own Aston Martin (hence DB5) and Lagonda. I wonder how many gears that tractor has.
I thought plough had a certain earthiness to it. Note the video at the bottom of this post was taken in October 2010 just outside Lincoln (England) at the World Ploughing Championships. Check it out and note the O2 LTE upload medium.
Did you know1 that LTE was launched in the USA in December 2010 where a most aggressive competition between operators has been taking place, led by Verizon? In the USA LTE has high penetration across all devices, comes at no premium over 3G data services and LTE users typically use around 50% more data than 3G users.
LTE was also launched in Germany in December 2010 but has had a slow adoption rate with the initial focus being on fixed/mobile substitution. This I understand is in part due to regulations ensuring that owners of LTE bandwidth have to service “the final third” as part of their licensing arrangements. There isn’t much of a choice of devices on LTE in Germany.
South Korea was relatively late to the game here. They launched in July 2011 but had nationwide coverage by mid 2012 and has the highest penetration rate, focussed mainly on selling to consumers. LTE has brought innovative new services to the South Koreans eg richer high quality interactive maps.
Norralorrapeople know this. Brings the scheduling of 4G in the UK into perspective doesn’t it?
4G is like lightning, it’s an eye opener and seriously enhances the mobile data experience. This post talks about the truly exciting O2 4G trials in London and thinks about how the technology is going to change the mobile game.
Mobile data is already an important feature in the business communication landscape. As an ISP we see demand for it in the area of machine to machine, rapid site deployment, backup solutions for Disaster Recovery scenarios and of course straightforward internet browsing and email access from mobile devices.
The strategic importance of mobile data has even led Timico to invest in an Ethernet connection direct into the O2 network. We can now offer mobile MPLS solutions that sit within the same environment as existing fixed line MPLS networks – ideal for businesses that need security in both fixed and mobile networks.
Over the last year or two in the UK the focus in fixed line broadband has been on Fibre To The Cabinet, or in marketing jargon Fibre Broadband. With downlink speeds of “up to”40Mbps (to be upgraded to 80Mbps this coming April) the technology is revolutionising how people use their broadband connection. Add in the growth in high quality streaming video and gaming services and it is easy to see how the additional available bandwidth will be consumed.
Until very recently the mobile world, in the UK at least, has remained firmly in the domain of 3G – a technology that now seems relatively stone aged compared with Fibre Broadband. HSDPA makes the experience more bearable but it is still many Mega-bits apart from its fixed line counterpart.
The mobile companies are poised to change all this with LTE (Long Term Evolution) otherwise known as 4G. Trials are being conducted in a small number of locations in the UK. Timico is the first O2 Service Provider partner to be invited onto their London trials I am pleased to be able to report on my experiences.
This service is like lightning. It’s fast, speedy, call it what you like it’s a life changer. It’s been one of those projects that has been a pleasure to be involved in.
With only 25 masts around central London coverage is nowhere near what you would describe as ubiquitous but this is only a trial. When in a coverage area the speeds are great.
I started off in McDonalds at Kings Cross with a dongle fresh out of the box. After installation of the software, which was easy, the dongle performed an automatic firmware upgrade, also easy, using its own 4G connection.
At McDonalds I was getting over 13Mbps down and 540Kbps up which in my mind was a bit disappointing though I’m not sure it should have been. I have experimented with O2s 4G at their offices in Slough and seen much faster speeds both up and down than this. In fact this speed at McDonalds is faster than I get from my home ADSL2+ connection so I couldn’t grumble.
I knew I could do better than this. Roaming around town on the top deck of a number 25 bus I got 15.5Megs down and amazingly 25Megs up – near Wardour Street. The ping times for all these measurements were impressive.
In torrential rain I moved around on foot dipping into various places to check out the speeds and moving generally towards known good hotspots.
In the end I took shelter in a pub called the Devonshire Arms on Duke Street, just off Oxford Street. Sat in the window and sipping a cup of tea I hit the jackpot with 40Megs down and 23 Megs up. I did various tests including varying the browser – Chrome was much better than IE. I also did video calls with both Timico’s own VoIP service and Skype.
The screenshot on the right is of four iPlayer daytime TV streams. The things you have to do to get a blog post written!
The highest I have seen recorded is 97Megs in the O2 Arena itself. The 2,600 MHz LTE itself will go to 150Megs but the dongle tech doesn’t currently support this. We do have to remember this is very much a test rather than a production rollout so it isn’t going to be perfect but even considering this the experience has been great.
There were a few observations to be made out of this trial. The raw speed I saw with O2s 4G was terrific when in good coverage areas. The amount of data you can download in a very small amount of time is going to change the game. In upgrading the dongle firmware for example I used 50MB in around a minute. If you consider that until recently a typical “fair use” policy for an “unlimited” data package was 500MB then you can see that the model is going to have to change. The backhaul capacity that mobile operators are going to have to build in to their networks is going to have to see growth measured in orders of magnitude.
Spectrum allocation for 4G rollout is going to be very important. At 2,600MHz the bandwidth you can get is much higher than at 800MHz, say. However the in-building penetration at the higher speed is not as good so the overall network design represents an interesting (though not insurmountable I’m sure) challenge for engineers. This makes the forthcoming Ofcom spectrum auction important – there is a mix of spectra that is going to be optimum for commercial success.
As a side note it is going to be interesting to see how much the operators are prepared to pay for spectrum – they all think they overpaid for 3G but the demand has not been there for most of the time that 3G has been around. It is different this time and people are starting to get used to paying for the bandwidth they use.
From an end user perspective the ability to have genuinely fast internet access on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone is going to change their experience. Whilst WiFi is becoming more common, at least in pubs, coffee shops and other public places the need to authenticate is still a nuisance. Also not having to wait whilst a screen loads up on your mobile phone needs to become a human right!
It is certainly going to drive more business into the mobile environment. Timico, for example, gives all its salesforce an iPad so that they can demonstrate Timico applications and our customer portal on the fly at a customer’s premises. An iPad with 40Megs of bandwidth all of a sudden becomes a low cost endpoint for a telepresence HD conferencing system.
The gaming experience is going to be great1. Who knows what mobility combined with high speed internet will do for that industry, freed from the shackles of the lounge or the bedroom. City wide action games? Orienteering for the 21st century?
The use of mobile technology for backup purposes will also extend into many more areas of businesses. Typically 3G is used where only low bandwidth is required or where any bandwidth is better than no bandwidth. 4G becomes a viable solution for offices – even company HQs.
Of course with many more people on a production 4G network the average speeds available may well come down but LTE really is a game changer.
It’s nice to to be in a position of being able to play with these new toys but there is a very serious business side to this. As those of you who have met me recently will probably know I’ve been testing the technology for a few weeks now – Timico is the first O2 service Provider partner to be given access to their 4G network. It forms part of the long term mobile data strategy of our business and follows nicely on from the direct connection into the O2 network I referred to at the start of the post.
I should finish off with a big thank you to O2 for including me in the trials. It’s good to be able to work with such a progressive partner.
1 I’m not a gamer but one of my kids would spend his entire live tethered to the Xbox. I have heard the tinny VoIP it emits.
I am not at Mobile World Congress, Barcelona. I have had a number of emails asking for meetings at the exhibition. They obviously aren’t using the attendee list for their mailing.
It’s ok though because almost every tech journalist I know is there and there will be a lot of coverage. It’s even made BBC primetime with Rory Cellan Jones trying (and failing apparently) to broadcast a report using the 4G network at the venue.
At MWC this year there are over 1,400 exhibitors. It is surely impossible to visit all stands. One journo I know has a table at a café and has invited anyone with news to book a slot for coffee/lunch/beer. That way he won’t wear out his shoes traipsing around the 11 or so exhibition halls. The value in these shows is not normally at company stands but in the networking opportunities at bars and restaurants.
Also in my experience each event needs to put together a best 50 powerpoint slides of the show. That way you miss out all the sales gough and cut to the chase (and can spend more time “networking”).
These are expensive events to attend – both as exhibitors and attendees. Realistically it’s a thousand pounds minimum spend per person if you want to pop along taking airfare hotel and meals into account. If you are a large corporate and not spending your own money it is probably twice that.
If you are not a journalist the only sensible way to do it is by reading about it online. For example I have just read in the Guardian online that this year Nokia is launching PureView camera phone with 41 Megapixels.
Interesting how technology dynamics have changed. It used to be that bigger and bigger Microsoft software footprints would chew up any progress made under Moore’s Law by the PC manufacturers. Now the race has changed to mobile handsets and connectivity speeds.
My Samsung Galaxy has an 8Megapixel camera and takes 3Mbytes photos. The 41Megapixel camera should proportionally take over 10 Mbytes of memory per shot. Last summer I wrote that I would be taking photos with a 40Megapixel phone by 2016 and discussed how connectivity speeds needed to keep pace with smartphone technology for access to the cloud.
Nokia seems to have blown the 2016 forecast out of the water although note that there is no mention of the PureView on their website – CEOs need to have something exclusive to talk about at expensive shows I guess.
The fact that the BBC has been talking 4G is a sign that the technology race is about to step up a gear. Whilst broadband speeds have started to climb, for the majority of us in any case, the UK is behind the curve on mobile – we haven’t even sorted out who gets which spectrum yet. Faster mobile data connectivity and in particular more bandwidth to cope with the increased usage that that faster connectivity will bring is going to be critical.
“Mobile” is where the future battles for country competitiveness of a country is going to be fought. Mobile applications, mobile ecommerce, “mobile anything” will depend on good connectivity. For the last two or three years here in the UK we have been talking about the need to have faster fixed line broadband – to have the “best fibre broadband network in Europe by 2015”. The focus of the debate now needs to start shifting to mobile.
As I gaze into my crystal ball the mists are swirling, swirling. Now they are disappearing. Ah, it is all clear. I can see blue skies. I can see people dancing, holding aloft their smartphones and tablets. Waving. Everyone is happy. Where is this mythical land where the rivers flow with champagne/beer/cappucino (delete as appropriate)?
It is here, where you and I live. In Blighty. Home.
I have just come back from O2’s offices in Slough where I had a play with 4G on a laptop. The jpg in the header photo shows the download and upload performance. The speed varies but does go as high as 80 – 85Megs down.
The laptop I was using only needed 7Megs worth of bandwidth for its day to day activities – email, streaming HD etc so there is plenty of headroom when considering personal use. It is easy however to imagine this service being used as a replacement for fixed line bandwidth where a family would certainly use up all the bandwidth available. Also who knows what bandwidth hungry applications are round the corner. They will come.
The demo is impressive. The photo inset was taken from my Samsung Galaxy 2 so isn’t a screenshot and the quality could be better. It doesn’t matter. I watched Frozen Planet streaming in HD on iPlayer – no buffering, perfect quality.
O2 has recently announced 4G trials in an area of London between Kings Cross and the City. I am taking part. Watch this space for up to the minute information on 4G.
Everyone Everywhere (pun intended) will have heard of Ofcom’s decision to re-enter consultation over the LTE or 4G mobile spectrum allocation. Issued late on Friday afternoon the statement regarding the delay caused by reopening the consultation has already attracted comments re “hiding bad news over the weekend”.
There were 64 responses that included the A to W of stakeholders in the UK (nothing from X, Y or Z). The Association of Train Operating Companies was mainly concerned to ensure that good coverage at high, sustained download speeds is ensured along the whole of the GB mainline rail network. At the other end of the alphabet both the Welsh government and Wiltshire Council wanted better coverage in rural areas with the latter quoting a target figure of 99% of the population.
More pressure has been piled on Ofcom and the government by the publication of a report by the Open Digital Policy organisation suggesting that delays to the UK 4 G license auctions will cost the country dear. The delay to the auction has been caused by apparent threat of legal action by a number of carriers including O2.
ODP looked at the speed, capacity and coverage improvements next generation mobile broadband (known as 4G or LTE) is likely to bring, and estimated that over 37 million business hours per year could be saved from faster mobile data downloads if 4G mobile technology was to be deployed sooner than is currently planned.
Earlier this year I chaired a debate on mobile spectrum allocation at Portcullis House in Westminster. The issue of 4G spectrum allocation is a hot potato. The three largest mobile carriers O2, Vodafone and Everything Manyplaces, have existing voice bandwidth that they are being allowed to reuse for data. 3 does not so this delay will not only cost UK business but will likely have a deleterious effect on the number 4 operator (this is clearly a numbers game).