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By: MarkJ - 2 November, 2010 (7:35 AM)
uk mobile broadband spectrumThe International Telecommunication Union (ITU), specifically its radio communication sector (ITU-R), recently completed an assessment of the global 4G (IMT-Advanced) next generation Mobile Broadband standard and officially agreed with its initial findings. In other words, neither first generation WiMAX nor LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology qualify as 4G and UK mobile operators should officially refer to them as 3G (IMT-2000).

To cut a long story short, IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced) cellular systems can only call themselves 4G if they are able to deliver a peak download speed of up to approximately 100Mbps in a high mobility environment (i.e. mobile phone access) and up to 1Gbps (1024Mbps) in a low mobility one (i.e. local wireless access).


Neither WiMAX nor LTE can deliver 1Gbps in low mobility environments, which means they do not qualify as a 4G solution. This is nothing new but until now the unfinished "standard" had left enough uncertainty for some operators to call related services 4G, partly in reference to the fact that they are still delivering a significant upgrade.

Valery Timofeev, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, said:

"While the goals set for IMT-Advanced were considered by some to be very high, I am very pleased to see that all stakeholders in the mobile wireless industry have risen to meet the challenge.

I look forward to the ITU-R Recommendation for IMT-Advanced that will have a profound effect on the development of state-of-the-art technologies for 4G mobile broadband."

Future LTE-Advanced and WiMAX2 (802.16m / WirelessMAN-Advanced) solutions do qualify as 4G and both are capable of the peak recommended performance, although we won't see those in the UK for some years to come. Even first generation LTE won't really get off the ground until 2012/13, which is partly dependent upon certain regulatory adjustments and spectrum auctions.

The ITU's final Report is expected to be approved by Member States at the ITU-R Study Group 5 meeting in Geneva during late November 2010. However we wouldn't be surprised if some UK operators still decided to call their forthcoming LTE services 4G, unless Ofcom were to clamp down.
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