Press release

Government 4G mobile roll out will disappoint consumers

22 July 2011


Communications experts from Europe’s largest engineering and technology organisation are calling on the Government to change their plans over the new spectrum allocation including the new 4G technology for the next generation of mobile phones.

The Government should take this once in a lifetime opportunity and take radical steps to ensure that regulation does not continue to be a serious barrier to growth.

Members of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) believe that this must begin with the Government defining a national ambition for UK mobile infrastructure to support UK competitiveness, investment and innovation.

“Growing demand for broadband is stretching the capability of existing networks” said Professor Will Stewart from the IET.  “Wholesale network competition must perform better or we will fall further and further behind consumer expectations.

“It is important for the Government and regulators to promote a vision for the future of mobile superfast services that inspire sustainable investment and wider competition.

“A reformed and modernised UK network regulatory framework then needs to fully support this ambition.  It is not about more regulation but the right regulation.

The IET has outlined three mobile communications challenges:

  1. The capacity challenge: rapid growth in demand is set to continue, but mobile networks lack the capacity to allow them to keep up with both the capacity demand and the rising access speeds on the fixed broadband networks.  Additional spectrum will only provide modest gains and will not satisfy the rapid growth demand in data services.
  2. The coverage challenge: The move to ever higher reaches of the radio spectrum (to build data capacity) is driving a shrinkage of “effective” mobile coverage with enhancing capacity.  The IET believes the introduction of Femto cell type technology will be required to achieve both service coverage and improved data throughput in order to reverse the trend.
  3. The regulatory challenge: The UK has passed through four generations of mobile communications technology – each a revolution in shaping the consumer experience.  Network competition is now weakening whilst retail competition is intensifying putting into question the emergence of the right new mobile infrastructure platforms to support the creative industries and consumer choice for the mobile digital age

Professor Stewart concluded: “We have had extensive discussions on different aspects of this issue, and are conscious that, like all such issues, there can be much complexity in the details.

“So, in writing directly to the Culture Secretary, we have chosen to present a specific view of the future of the key area of superfast mobile wireless access.  Of course, concern in this area is driven by the need to support new smartphone and other mobile services where coverage, regulatory and capacity issues are already serious enough to be a limit on new services. The current mobile regulatory framework, far from coping with these new challenges, has become part of the problem.”

The Government must consider both mobile and wireline communications more fully in the context of our national infrastructure in the same way that it does with energy, transport and water, with its complex interdependencies.

Media enquiries to:

Robert Beahan
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7595 400912
Email: rbeahan@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • Expert IET spokespeople are available for interview.
  • The IET is Europe’s largest professional body of engineers with 150,000 members in 127 countries.
  • The IET is the professional home for life for engineers and technicians.
  • The IET dates back to 1871 and has offices in Europe, Asia and the US.
  • For more information, visit www.theiet.org.