Battle of the bands: how the new 4G networks will differ

Mobile companies will use different airwave frequencies to offer 4G and this will impact on their service

Following the news that O2 will be launching its own 4G service on August 29, the fuss over the new network standard continues to confuse. And the difference is not only about costs - due to different companies using different parts of the radio spectrum to broadcast 4G, the services themselves will be varied.

For a start, the promise of 'superfast' speeds via 4G isn't so straightforward. EE have been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for misleading consumers with their use of the word as its usually used in reference to fixed line internet connections offering download speeds of 24Mbps and upwards.

Whilst 4G will certainly be 'superfast' in comparison to 3G (probably around five times faster), it still doesn't offers download speeds equal to wired connections. Networks can always promise speeds of ‘up to’ some ridiculously high number, but such claims - whilst technically true -  are usually false in practice.

EE’s attempts to hype up its network are understandable given its failure to  take advantage of its early monopoly on 4G in the UK. The company was the first to offer 4G back in 2012 after petitioning Ofcom  to convert some of its existing network capacity.

Other telecoms were taken off guard by the move, as most had expected to launch 4G services after Ofcom's planned auction of broadband spectrums in February 2013 (more on that later).

However, EE got greedy with its monopoly and launched its 4G network at extortionate prices. £31 for 3GB a month on a SIM only contract locked in for 24 months was one of their 'better' deals and unsurprisingly, customers didn’t bite, with revenues for the company falling 2% year on year.

Selling the airwaves

Following this false-start for 4G in the UK, the government auctioned off new portions of the airwaves in February this year, with telecoms buying them with the intent to launch 4G networks (though we should note that BT also bought some of the bands for non-4G purposes).

The auction was partly sparked by the closure of terrestrial television and the switch to digital, which freed up parts of the spectrum. Money was, of course, another motivating factor, and the sale raised £2.34bn; a large sum but still significantly smaller than the £3.5bn predicted by the treasury.

The idea of selling off something as intangible as Britain’s 'air' certainly strikes the imagination (‘New Low for Austerity Britain as Government Sells ‘Blitz Spirit’ to Saudi Royals’) but the companies are merely buying the right to broadcast at certain frequencies (full sales figures can be seen here).

Apart from creative possibilities of auctioning off abstract concepts, the frequency auction becomes very interest when you know that two different sorts of frequencies were being sold – bands around the 800MHz and 2.6GHz levels - will offer different sorts of 4G service.

How the spectrum varies

Activating 4G networks on the higher spectrum, the 2.6GHz band, will allow networks to offer higher download speeds – far better suited to urban environments where high number of customers will be ‘hogging the line’ as it were.

In comparison, the 800MHz band will be better suited for long-distance coverage and able to reach more remote parts of the country.

In the February auction O2 and Three only purchased sections of the 800MHz frequency (for £550m and £225m respectively) whilst Vodafone and EE bought into both the 800MHz and 2.6GHz ranges.

In theory, this might mean that O2’s service is worse for city-dwellers but will be available to a higher degree of the population (they're aiming for 98%, but then again, so are EE) whilst the opposite could hold true for EE.

It also means that EE will have the edge over O2 by being able to offer the iPhone 5. This model isn’t compliant with the 800MHz frequency but works perfectly well on the 1.8GHz band used by EE. Thankfully for O2 the forthcoming iPhone 5S will be compatible on all of these frequencies.

Despite this, it's not all to EE's advantage, as mobile experts have also said that the 800MHz range is far better suited for mobile data, which should mean less dropped video calls and the like, even if the speeds are slightly slower.

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Website Editor

    £15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits