Eleven weeks after launching its 4G network in London, Leeds and Bradford, O2 has announced that it has already reached its target for 2013, despite having six weeks of the year still to go. The O2 4G network now provides 28% indoor population coverage in the UK, which equates to around 17 million people.
The O2 network has been rolled out to include 13 major cities and more than 120 surrounding towns, with the latest additions being Edinburgh, Newcastle, Huddersfield, and Rotherham. They expect to provide access to an additional three million people over the next three months, but stress that they are also investing one and half million pounds a day on upgrading their 2G and 3G networks.
EE Sceptical About 4G from O2
While O2 appears optimistic about the future of its 4G network, rival network EE has predicted that O2, and indeed their other rivals Vodafone and Three, will find it difficult to cope with the growing demand for 4G in the UK due to limited spectrum access.
EE believes that they will be able to deal with increased demand for 4G because they own 36% of the UK spectrum on both the 800MHz and the 2.6GHz bands, but suggest that their rivals do not have the capacity to keep up with customer demand. This opinion was voiced by Olaf Swantee, speaking at the Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum in London, as EE announced the launch of a 300Mbps 4G network in Tech City.
Rapid Increase in Demand for 4G
If EE is right about its rival’s lack of capacity, O2 certainly would have cause for concern as the demand for 4G does seem to be increasing rapidly. According to an intelligence study by GSMA the migration from 3G to 4G LTE is happening considerably faster than the earlier migration from 2G to 3G, due to the availability of 4G networks, handsets, and affordable tariffs.
According to Hyunmi Yang, Chief Strategy Officer at the GSMA, “Since the launch of the first commercial 4G-LTE networks in late 2009 we are seeing deployments accelerate across the globe. Our new report highlights a number of factors that are driving LTE growth: the timely allocation of suitable spectrum to mobile operators; the availability of affordable LTE devices; and the implementation of innovative tariffs that encourage adoption of high-speed data services. Mobile operators in both developed and developing markets are seeing LTE services contributing to a significant increase in ARPU.”
The report also indicates that 4G LTE users currently consume an average of 1.5GB data per month, which is double the average data used by non LTE users. GSMA believes that 20% of the world’s population is now within 4G LTE network range, but that this will have increased to 50% by 2017.
In the meantime, O2 is forging ahead with its 4G rollout and is tempting customers with offers, such as an extra 3GB data per month if they sign up to 4G pay monthly before February 2014. O2 is also offering customers a 90 day happiness guarantee, meaning that if customers aren’t satisfied with 4G after three months they can switch back to 3G and receive a bill credit. If you’re not sure whether you have 4G coverage with O2 in your area, look for the coverage map on the O2 website and enter your postcode.