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The UK is preparing to move to 4G and starts planning for 5G mobile

The meaning of 4G defines the fourth generation of wireless mobile broadband communications. A 4G system should allow, with a new and powerful data processing system to provide seamless, high-performance connections to different types of networks in an area.

02/04/2013 Andrea Pasqualetti*

The UK is preparing to move to 4G and starts planning for 5G mobile

The meaning of 4G defines the fourth generation of wireless mobile broadband communications. A 4G system should allow, with a new and powerful data processing system to provide seamless, high-performance connections to different types of networks in an area. The mobile operators in the United Kingdom (EE, Vodafone, O2, 3 and BT) paid 2.3 billion pounds for the purchase of new frequencies for launch services with the 4G technology.

For this reason, new technologies have been developed to improve network coverage as femtocells and picocells to meet the needs of mobile users in homes, public buildings and offices, thus ensuring a better service for users who are forced to use the roaming or who are in service areas more remote.

Ofcom (is the competent authority and the independent regulatory authority for the communications company in the UK) has auctioned two pieces of radio waves in the UK. The first, in the 800 MHz band was previously used by analog TV and released for the digital switchover.

The use of this frequency is critical to increase coverage in rural areas. All operators have now a part of it and it is great news for rural consumers currently struggle to get a little 'connectivity. This means that many will be able to completely bypass the 3G and 4G go to the very beginning of next summer.

O2 has assumed obligation to cover Ofcom, to provide coverage to 98% of the UK population by 2017.

History has taught us that many consumers who live in rural areas have had to deal with connectivity patchy or intermittent because the operators have always concentrated to give the best service are in large cities - O2 obligation to provide a better connectivity even in areas outside urban areas is designed to solve or mitigate this problem permanently.

The other frequency was sold by Ofcom in the 2.6GHz band. This higher frequency range will provide new capabilities of bandwidth incredibly higher than the current ones.

In total were auctioned 250Mhz frequency. This is equivalent to two-thirds of the radio frequencies currently used by devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops.

By current trends, data traffic is expected to increase 1,000 fold by 2020, by which time there will be an estimated at least 50 billion Internet-capable devices. Our ever-growing love for mobile communications is a fast lane to "spectrum crunch" – we're just running out of radio space.

The electromagnetic spectrum of radiowaves is another of our finite resources, shared out between a hungry media still expanding its TV and radio platforms, all the mobile web-enabled devices, emergency services and the military.

Spectrum crunch will basically mean a shortage of supply, leading to a widening gap between the technology "haves" and "have nots", smaller markets for businesses and restrictions on the development of wireless-enabled technologies, products and services. Instead of the great opening up of the web, mass participation and new commercial opportunities, we'll see a closing down.

This is why 5G is so important, even before 4G has taken off. Unlike its predecessors, 5G technology isn't about improving speed of data rates, it's about sustainability and making a global digital life a possibility. 5G is needed urgently as a new basis of an efficient, space-saving approach to the spectrum. It will also be the technology that helps minimise the energy requirements of web devices and network infrastructure – another issue as everyday life becomes increasingly mobile and digital.

The University of Surrey has been given the go-ahead to set up a 5G Innovation Centre, backed up by a total of £35m investment from a combination of the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund and a consortium of key mobile operators and infrastructure providers including Huawei, Samsung, Telefonica Europe, Fujitsu Laboratories Europe, Rohde & Schwarz and AIRCOM International.

So the 5G Innovation Centre will be a hub for the latest research and technologies, capable of attracting telecoms giants internationally to carry out their own R&D and the basis of a cluster for the involvement of all kinds of businesses from different sectors interested in getting a lead from taking advantage of 5G platforms: media firms, gaming, health, logistics etc. The Centre will live within a 5G testing environment (operating throughout the University campus and also into Guildford in order to offer a model of the different types of urban and non-urban spaces) for firms to try out new offerings on the latest network.

At the current state of affairs organizations in the UK seem to have a far-sighted vision of the situation to seize the opportunity and take part in the right way in this new global challenge proposed by the markets. The 5G has the potential to be a valuable asset for the coming years.
What is Itallia doing for it? Is it ready to accept the challenge about the development of this new technology?

Wha’is the situation of 4G in Italy?

On September 30 2011 it has been completed the italian auction for the granting of 4G LTE frequencies of the three available frequencies: 800, 1800 and 2600. Wind, Vodafone and Telecom Italia have managed to win two blocks each frequency LTE 800 Mhz (the best frequencies). Vodafone, Telecom Italia and H3G have obtained one block each of the 1800 Mhz frequency. Four blocks each to H3G and Wind for the 2600 Mhz frequency, whereas only three blocks were assigned to Vodafone and Telecom Italia for the same frequencies.

The budget allocated and spent by the telecommunications companies has been remarkable: the auction, which objective was the achievement of €2.4 billion, ended with the collection of almost € 4 billion. This is the detail of the amounts: with 1.26 billion euro each, Vodafone and Telecom Italia have spent most of all. Wind follows with 1.12 billion, and H3G, with 305 million, is the only excluded from the best band, the 800 Mhz.
It was a big success for the state, but what are the consequences of the auction for the consumers?

At the moment the operators started with only one of the three frequencies working on the italian 4G network, the 1800 MHz, which is basically designed for outdoor coverage. For a better indoor coverage (inside buildings) it will be necessary to wait utill the activation of the frequency to 2600 MHz (the third frequency is 800 MHz, which will be used mainly in rural areas).

The frequency limits are in addition to those designated as hedges. Tim currently provides coverage in 13 cities: Turin, Milan, Rome and Naples - already served at the launch of the "Ultra Internet 4G Tim". Additional cities are Ancona, Brindisi, Catanzaro, Forli, Genoa, Padova, Palermo, Taranto and Trento. Vodafone brings its 4G also in Bari, Genoa, Naples, Turin, Padova and Palermo (departure was in Rome and Milan). 3 Italy and Wind are starting at the beginning of 2013.

From the analysis of this scenario it is clear that not only there are great portions of the country without any 4G coverage, but its use it’s precluded in strategic places for the mobility of people such as railways, highways and airports, way far from the total coverage that 3G has on the whole nation.

We must remember that one of the promises of 4G, especially on the 800 MHz frequency that one the TV must free, is to minimize the digital divide going to cover rural areas where there isn’t ADLS.

From all of this it is clear that in the “Bel Paese” despite a significant surplus of funds, approximately € 1.3 billion, and a year in advance on the frequencies’ sale, not only the development of 4G it is far behind the United Kingdom but it notes a structural lack of planning and foresight from the government in such an important challenge like the technological development of the 5G technology.

Italian version