Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Ofcom Chief Warns About Overloaded Mobile Networks

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show Ofcom chief Ed Richards warned that UK Mobile networks are reaching full capacity. He said that those in rural Wales are likely to suffer if the demand for mobile broadband and internet enabled smart phones continues to rise.

The rise in mobile broadband has overtaken all estimates in the years since it was introduced and now the popularity of smart phones is likely to add to the problems of the already oversubscribed networks. Only a small part of the digital spectrum is currently allocated to mobile broadband. This has left networks struggling to provide the bandwidth to support their customers needs.

“UK users are now seeing the beginnings of a capacity pinch, as data-enabled smartphones and dongles chew through media-rich websites and process more background traffic. But while demand is booming – mobile data usage has grown by more than 1,800% in the UK in the past two years – the frequencies, or spectrum, upon which it and so many other similar services are carried have not.
The laws of physics prevent us from inventing or acquiring new spectrum, but we can release spectrum used for other services.”

The statement by Richards follows the news that the Government's Digital Britain plan has been delayed by three years. The original plan was to provide "broadband for all" by 2012 but the data has been revised following cuts in funding. Richards feels that a larger section of the spectrum needs to be allocated to broadband.

“The switch to all-digital television, completed first here in Wales in March, has freed up some hugely important spectrum that could be used to increase the availability of very fast mobile broadband throughout Wales,” he said. I am absolutely clear that we need to get on and release this, something Ofcom has tried to do in the teeth of fierce resistance from existing mobile operators.

For consumers everywhere, the risk is of a slowing of innovation, and a possible reversal of the downward price pressure. And for users in rural Wales it could mean fewer options for solving their connectivity problems.”

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