Andrew Ferguson, site editor at thinkbroadband.com, comments: “While it is good news to see Ofcom enforcing the 3G coverage targets, it is still very common for people in cities to have to seek out a Wi-Fi hotspot to check their email. The 3G coverage obligation reveals the real problems with 3G, and that while it provides a useful baseline broadband service, it is not something that is really fit for how we use the Internet in 2013 and onwards.
With a requirement to provide just 768 Kbps and one in 10 connection attempts allowed to fail, it is immediately clear why merely improving 4G coverage will not help the quality mobile broadband access in the UK.
A big problem with the current 3G networks is the use of the 2100 MHz spectrum which is blocked by walls and trees. Add to this the increasing amount of double glazing with energy efficient metallic films, and 3G is fighting a losing battle to actually reach users.
4G brings major improvements, by operating at lower frequencies, having more radio spectrum to operate it and making more efficient use of the spectrum. Combine these factors with improved backhaul capacity from cells sites to ensure that the higher 4G speeds are possible and hardware that can cope with more simultaneous users and 4G should do a much better job in accessibility.
While the 4G roll-outs have drawn criticism for their focus on cities, as long as the operators keep their roll-outs running at current speeds, we should soon see 3G coverage surpassed.
4G is in many ways less about dancing a conga line around the cities, but about every day actions like checking emails, Facebook and Twitter. In short it is about getting the myriad of small data uses to work reliably so we can get on with our lives.”