Many have accused mobile operator O2 of ‘soft-pedalling’ 4G as they begin their rollout of the superfast mobile service in just three cities, but Ronan Dunne, CEO of O2’s parent company Telefonica UK, insists that they are moving forward as quickly as they can.
Dunne is certainly passionate about 4G and describes it as “like talking the training wheels off your digital life”. In an interview with BBC News he suggests that adopting 4G will allow us to do everything we can now do online at home, whilst on the move. It will provide more coverage, more speed, and access to services such as interactive gaming on the move which would have been unthinkable before.
Where is O2 rolling out 4G?
Initially O2 have rolled out their 4G network in London, Leeds, and Bradford. While Steven Hartley, principal analyst at Ovum, suggests that this shows a very conservative approach to 4G, Dunne states that this has immediately provided 4G access to five million mobile users.
02 plan to expand their 4G coverage to ten more cities by the end of 2013. Dunne indicates that they will be covering an additional two million mobile users each month. Ofcom’s ultimate goal is for 98% of the UK to have 4G coverage by the end of 2017.
What has delayed the 4G rollout?
EE was the first UK network to begin offering 4G almost a year ago, and it now covers 105 UK cities, so why has the O2 rollout only just begun? The Ofcom auction of spectrum space back in February was well publicised, and O2 were reported to have spent £550 million on part of the 800MHz spectrum. This is the spectrum bandwidth that was previously used for TV signals, and is most suited to providing long-distance 4G services, as well as superior indoor coverage.
Dunne explains that although the auction took place in February, O2 didn’t receive the extra spectrum space until the end of May, so a late August rollout has actually been relatively fast.
What is O2 offering 4G customers?
As well as the additional speed that is the main benefit of 4G, O2 are offering their 4G customers a range of other benefits. O2 Tracks allows mobile users to download tracks in the official top 40 and stream music videos, while Priority Sports provides all the latest sports videos. O2’s 4G customers will also have access to exclusive multiplayer games, provided by Gameloft.
O2 are so sure their customers will benefit from 4G that they’re offering a 90 day happiness guarantee. They’re also offering free data increases for 4G customers that come on board before the end of October 2013.
Although it still seems that the UK is lagging behind other countries in its adoption of 4G, Ronan Dunne is adamant that O2 at least are moving as quickly as possible to rollout their network across the UK in order to provide their customers with what he describes as “the digital experience you always wanted”.