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By: MarkJ - 21 July, 2009 (6:38 AM)
The Director of Technical Solutions at UK mobile operator Three (3) , Phil Sheppard , has claimed that its Mobile Broadband service could be a "viable alternative" to fixed land line broadband ISPs and it would be possible with only a relatively small investment. That and access to more radio spectrum from its rivals.

Sheppard was speaking at one of the governments Broadband for All Westminster eForum seminars, which had been brought together to discuss Lord Carter’s final Digital Britain report and how best to implement its pledge of a 2Mbps universal UK minimum broadband speed (June's original news).

Sheppard told the seminar:

"Mobile Broadband tends to be capable and commercially capable of providing the 2Mbps broadband universal service commitment and is an extremely efficient way of doing it. It is very cost effective, it actually doesn’t need government funding, what it needs is access to spectrum, that’s the key."

Perhaps it depends upon the interpretation of "viable" because in its present form , Mobile Broadband , not unlike Satellite , is not directly comparable to fixed land line broadband ISPs. We explored the reasons why this is the case back in April - 'Can a 2Mbps mobile broadband USO Solve the Digital Divide'.

However by 2012 the current generation of 3G based HSPA and HSPA+ Mobile Broadband technology will be making way for its 4G replacement in the form of Long Term Evolution (LTE). LTE is not merely about offering faster speeds, which could one day top 1Gbps, but it is also far better at latency, handling multiple users within a single area and managing online application use.

Sheppard's key hint in this matter concerns "access to spectrum", which is a reference to the current battle over access to O2 and Vodafone's older 2G (900Mhz) band. Ofcom would like to see this redistributed to rival operators, such as Three (3), which could then convert it to 3G and thus dramatically extend their Mobile Broadband and voice coverage.

The current spectrum battle is expected to be resolved within the next 12 months, possibly as soon as the end of this year, although precisely how it will be done is still open to change. We would rather see Mobile Broadband than satellite as a USO solution but much will depend on whether the 900Mhz issue can be resolved in an effective way.
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