The decision by the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, to delay the auction of LTE spectrum is costing UK businesses hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
The recently announced three-to-six-month months interruption to the auction process will see UK companies losing between £183 million and £366 million, according to a report by the lobbying firm Open Digital Policy Organisation (ODPO). The ODPO was founded in May with the primary aim of keeping the Internet free and open.
The firm estimates that the faster download speeds provided by LTE could save more than 37 million business hours a year, with these extra hours costing UK businesses £732 million a year. As such, the ODPO has called upon Ofcom to implement more ambitious rollout targets and for the UK government to accept the massive benefit to the economy that mobile data using LTE could provide.
"We acknowledge that such a change will not happen overnight, with Ofcom proposing a target date of 2017 to reach the 95-percent 4G coverage target," the report notes. "However, our aim is to estimate the cost of delays, or, looking at it another way, the saving to the UK economy if 4G rollout could be achieved earlier."
"Visitors to Britain will first notice London's lack of LTE mobile data when they arrive for the Olympics next year," James Firth, report co-author and CEO of ODPO. "In addition to the lost time through slow mobile data, UK businesses won't be able to fully benefit from new cloud-based business tools until the UK has a nationwide reliable high speed mobile data network."
Ofcom has estimated that the first UK LTE networks will become available before 2013, although nationwide deployment is unlikely to be complete before 2017, years later than most of Europe.
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