4G network upgrade “not viable” until 2015
The UK is unlikely to see widespread upgrades to next generation LTE wireless networks until 2015, according to research from analysts at Informa Telecoms and Media.
Although Ofcom has this week announced a timetable that should see the spectrum required for the new services auctioned off in early 2012, with services potentially available in 2013, upgrades will not be economically viable until two years later, the researchers believe.
The delay, the research said, is due to the high levels of investment committed to existing technology that operators will need to bleed before they invest in future technologies.
“Even though there is growing demand for mobile data, current UK mobile network deployments are so dense that it would make the introduction of LTE both an investment heavy and somewhat unjustifiable decision,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, a senior analyst for Informa.
According to the research, upgrades to current HSPA networks should meet data demands until 2013, and even then only data-hungry hotspots would start to see a slowdown.
“Using upgraded HSPA, operators will meet demand until 2015, after which the upgrade to LTE may be justifiable since economies of scale for hardware will have reduced infrastructure costs,” Mavrakis said. “Plus, a complete LTE ecosystem will be established, including handsets and portable devices.”
The research puts the cost of the overall upgrade at £36 million.