As Ofcom starts the auction process for a wider 4G roll out, University of Warwick mobile communications expert Dr Weisi Guo questions whether promises of speed and connectivity for consumers as well as profitability for industry have been oversold.
Dr Weisi Guo is assistant professor in the University of Warwick’s Department of Engineering with special responsibility for the university’s link with the Centre for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) in New York.
Speed and Connectivity
He said: “Mobile data transfer is an UN recognised key economic enabler.
“People need to be cautious about the current speed boost claims of 4G being 5-10 times better than 3G.
“Especially in 4G, data speed is all about how many other users there are.
“For the same resources and users, 4G should be about 2-3 times faster than the latest 3G.
“That means early users may see speed gains eroded as more 4G customers enter the network.
“However, data transfer is about connectivity as much as it is about data speed. Whilst the UK and other developed nations have a high percentage of outdoor mobile data connectivity, indoor connectivity remains notoriously bad.
“4G doesn't directly address that, it only improves the data speed in areas with connectivity.”
Consumers & Profitability
“To what extent has the mobile industry pushed the profitability of data speed too far?
“The profit margin of being able to transfer more and faster data is shrinking and the networks’ proposed 4G roll out employs very expensive tariffs to try and rejuvenate the economics of mobile data transfer.
“This has been launched on existing spectrum and the expensive purchasing of the 4G spectrum has yet to happen.
"I don't think consumers will pay too much more for 4G and I think it is a very difficult investment for operators to purchase the 4G spectrum.
“People will see 3G services on 4G enabled phones as the sensible choice, especially in this economic climate.”
“I think the main path for profitability is to look at their existing infrastructure and spectrum resources and really work together to squeeze more out of it.
“Currently, only half the infrastructure carries most of the data, but it is not always the same half.
“Operators should embrace technologies that can allow greater handset-to-handset cooperation and spectrum sensing, in order to maximize the operational efficiency. 4G doesn't really tackle any of these issues.
“Whilst the 4G technology is called LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, industry and academia call it Short Term Revolution.
"I think if we reach a stage, when we can look at the cellular network operations and say nothing significant can be improved, then we are in a place to migrate to 4G.”
Dr Guo is available for further comment on +44 (0)24 765 22223 or Weisi.Guo@warwick.ac.uk
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