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4G on the horizon: What will it mean for smartphones?

The much anticipated launch of superfast 4G bandwidth services on UK shores has been delayed time and again. Now smartphone users finally have a reason for hope with Ofcom’s announcement that bidding for the service will begin early next year.

The Telecoms regulator had initially hoped to run the sale at the end of 2012, after delaying it from an initial auction date of early 2012.

Now the service could be available in late 2013 if the planned auction of portions of radio spectrum to support 4G services runs smoothly.

Mixed reaction from operators

4G will offer smartphone users faster download speeds on all types of data such as music and videos, and could revolutionise the mobile industry.

Eddie Murphy, a telecoms analyst and founder of Priory Consulting, told the BBC that reactions to the launch date from mobile operators were “mixed”, with some feeling they have waited long enough for the service to be rolled out.

Ofcom also confirmed that auction won’t be restricted to the largest players in the mobile market, hinting that the smartphone monopoly may be toppled by the ownership of 4G services.

“In the interests of competition, Ofcom has decided to reserve a minimum amount of spectrum in the auction for a fourth operator. This could be either Hutchinson 3G or a new entrant altogether,” the regulator said.

4G: changing the smartphone landscape?

Earlier this year Apple was so keen to capitalise on the success of 4G services in the US that information posted on Apple’s iPad website in the UK made boasts of 4G capability.

After a dressing down from the Advertising Standards Agency the computer-giant removed the information. However, this does point to the fact that 4G has a significant role to play in improving smartphone and tablet capabilities.

Mobile network Everything Everywhere, which was formed with the merger of T-Mobile and Orange, has also been mounting a campaign for the introduction of 4G in the UK.

It argues that the superfast internet would pump a £75bn into the UK’s economy, as well as helping 10 million people who are unable to get superfast fixed broadband.

This idea is supported by Ofcom, which argues that 4G will mean that at least 98% of people in rural areas across the UK will have access to mobile broadband.

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