Ofcom floats 5G as answer to UK's mobile data demands

News 16 Nov, 2012

Comms regulator claims UK mobile users are consuming twice as much data now as they were a year ago.

While the rollout of EE’s 4G services continues to gather pace across the UK, Ofcom has revealed that plans are already afoot to launch an even faster mobile network.

The comms regulator has set out plans to use the 700 MHz frequency band, which is currently used to transmit digital terrestrial television signals, to rollout a possible 5G network.

The organisation said another digital switchover would not be needed to free up spectrum for 5G, but stressed the growing demand for mobile data means preparations need to be made now for its release.

According to Ofcom’s figures, twice as much data is now being consumed over the UK’s mobile networks than it was a year ago, and – by 2030 – the demand for mobile data could be around 80 times higher than it is today.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, said the launch of 4G may not be enough to sate the UK’s demand for mobile data.

“[This] is why we are already making significant efforts to prepare to go beyond 4G,” he said.

“Our plans are designed to avoid a ‘capacity crunch’, ensuring that the UK’s mobile infrastructure can continue to support the inescapable growth in consumer demand and economic growth more generally.”

Ofcom said the plans would require an international spectrum plan to be agreed, which is unlikely to be completed before 2018.

However, Bruce Girdlestone, senior business development manager at Virgin Media Business, warned that making extra airwaves available may not be enough to solve the problem.

“What’s needed is a blend of technology that seamlessly connects together to enable a better mobile future,” said Girdlestone.

“While some people will be looking ahead to 4G and even 5G, many mobile users are yet to even experience 3G as they really should. New technology like small cells gives mobile users a huge boost to their data speeds and enable them to get the mobile performance they’ve always craved.”