LTE looks great, but can we fix 2G coverage first?
EE's launch of LTE in the UK has reminded me of the very early days of 3G, when keen young journalists rushed around the cities where coverage was provided, and reported back that megabit-speeds were possible.
This time it all seems much the same. There is probably a new bunch of fresh-faced technology writers who want to be the first to describe this brave new world of LTE, and the many wonders it beholds.
First reports for EE's LTE performance are positive, with tests carried out in London showing speeds for in-building and outdoor typically above 10Mbps, with only a few tests coming in below this number.
This is an admirable performance, accepting that these tests were run on a near-empty network using preconfigured equipment provided by EE.
However, will the average customer be willing to pay the extra for a service that provides better speeds than HSPA+, but with coverage limited to 11 UK cities today? EE notes that it plans to expand LTE access to around two million people in the UK every single month between now and the end of 2014, with a third of the population covered by the end of this year.
This ambitious deployment plan is costing EE £1.5 billion, according to its CEO Olaf Swantee. He claims this will be the fastest rollout of any UK network in history, with the aim of having 98 per cent of the UK's population covered with LTE by December 2014.
However, from bitter experience I would contest these claims of high population coverage. In what is one of the most densely inhabited islands in the world, Orange/T-Mobile and Vodafone are not accessible where I live (20 miles from London), with only O2 UK providing reliable 2G coverage--including in-building.
The real test is to travel to some of the less populated regions of this small island, where you can forget 3G and even 2G being available from any operator. I'm frequently asked to explain to my neighbours why operators cannot provide even a basic level of service coverage, and I'm afraid my answers must sound rather lame.
What hope do I have of having access to LTE where I live? When Hell freezes over, I would guess, or slightly later. --Paul