Interest grows in 3G services

Interest grows in 3G services

Increased demand for mobile broadband from digital TV switchover

Two-thirds of UK consumers want radio spectrum freed up by the digital TV switchover to be used for mobile broadband and better phone coverage.

The second most popular choice is to increase the number of standard definition Freeview channels, while High Definition (HD) and mobile television were rated as the least popular options, says the Ofcom survey published last week.

The findings suggest third-generation (3G) mobile services could finally hit their stride.

Operators paid £22.5bn for 3G licences auctioned in 2000 but take-up has been slow. Excessive hype was part of the problem, said Chris Coffman, senior analyst at technology research group Library House.

“There was so much expectation that the first services were very disappointing,” he said.

“Operators frequently cite the fact that they overpaid during initial 3G spectrum auctions as a reason why they were unable to better roll out services.

“That consumers are still interested in 3G indicates there is a lot of demand.”

The numbers are starting to rise. When the technology first appeared on the market in 2003, 3G revenue across Europe totalled €72m (£52m).

By 2006 it was up to €15.7bn (£11.2bn), and by 2012 sales are forecast to reach €84.9bn (£60.7bn), according to intelligence firm Analysys.

One of the key factors in the rising demand is the growing popularity of remote working.

But the limitations of next-generation access devices could undermine support for teleworking, said Stephen Hearnden, director of telecommunications at trade group Intellect.

“The perception is greater than the reality,” said Hearnden.

“Even ‘road warriors’ tend to use mobile broadband sparingly, because it is difficult to interpret a big spreadsheet on a one-by-two-inch screen.”

The Ofcom study is a useful barometer of public opinion, but most operators have decided their strategy, and technology will have changed by the time the bandwidth is in use, according to Hearnden.

The redistribution of the digital dividend from the switchover will go ahead next year.