Data demand

Data demand

Philip Johnston

Philip Johnston

Philip Johnston, managing director at S3 Interactive, discusses how the UK is handling the demand for mobile data with mobile spectrum auctions.

With an average of one and a half mobile phones now in circulation for every single person living in the UK, that’s 90 million handsets in the market. With that figure in mind, it’s no surprise the government has now been forced to look at selling more of the wireless spectrum to satisfy our insatiable demand for bandwidth.

With internet on the move and tens of thousands of apps at the touch of a button, modern 3G devices like the iPhone, other smartphones and tablets, are eating up huge amounts of bandwidth compared to a what simple voice traffic mobile phone did just a few years ago.


4G for 100MB

Yes, faster downloads are better for everyone. 4G, the next generation technology promises to provide users with mobile broadband speeds of up to 100Mb taking how we all use the internet on the move to the next level.

But the technology even as it stands at the moment is currently coming very close to overwhelming the network, so everyone in the industry will be breathing a big sigh of relief that Ofcom has announced a consultation on how best to sell off the rights to use the next generation of mobile networks.

Lets just hope it’s not mismanaged like the previous 3G sell off. The last time the government auctioned off parts of the wireless spectrum it raised  £22.5 billion. This promises to be an even bigger sale, but will the big players be willing to cough up as much as they did the last time? I think it’s unlikely.

Many industry observers, myself included, think Vodafone, BTCellnet – now O2 – Orange, and One2One, paid way over the odds, so much so that they left no cash to develop their infrastructure to actually improve the way consumers used their phones resulting in an initial take up stagnation.


Auction time

Expected to start in the first quarter of 2012 this auction at first sight seems to have been more thought out with a root and branch consultation before hand a good starting point to try and avoid the mistakes of the past

This auction is not just critical to the future of the UK mobile telecommunications market but it is also of significant importance to the whole economy. As the global business village shrinks, it is those who are able to communicate effectively and quickly that will be able to move ahead. 4G is essential support the wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of modern business.

And at first sight it would appear the regulatory authorities are serious about getting the biggest benefits for the greatest number from this exercise. For instance they are already hinting that current mobile coverage, particularly 3G coverage, is less comprehensive in rural areas than in urban areas and that they will be keen to ensure more, as they put it, “uniformity of coverage” for 4G.

They’re even proposing a supplementary obligation that would mean licence holders would also have to cover a certain proportion of the population in rural areas. This time round it’s rumoured that they would make any successful bid conditional upon a licensee agreeing to extend their coverage to 95% of the UK population.

That maybe great news for people living in the country but it’s not a bad outcome for my sector of the industry either. For if 95% of the UK population are enticed to buy a new 4G phone, that’s a whole lot of devices that will need to be safely disposed of.

Phones that dusted off, refurbished and reboxed will give someone else in a less advanced part of the world the chance to benefit from technology we think is now so yesterday.

S3 Interactive specialises is providing recycling solutions to the mobile phone industry. It recovers over 60% of mobile phones previously deemed scrap or beyond repair and refurbishes these products to ‘as new’ condition, reboxes, repackages and exports them globally for re-use.

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