Mobile broadband boost’ll mean you can keep internetting on your phone

Are you using the internet more and more on your phone? You’re far from the only one, which is why the UK communications regulator has planned how demand for mobile broadband will be met in the future.

The amount of mobile data the average person in the UK uses each month doubled between 2011 and 2012, and demand could increase by 80 times between now and 2030.

This is because not only will the smartphones, tablets and apps you use get more sophisticated, but because machines and appliances - from fridges to smart energy meters and much more - will use mobile broadband to 'talk' to one another.

Neat, huh? If a little bit Skynet-y.

However, the bummer is the supply of spectrum - the range of electromagnetic frequencies needed to transmit mobile broadband - is limited.

Fear not, though - you won't find yourself unable to play Candy Crush on your phone anytime soon, because Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has been discussing plans to make sure there's enough mobile broadband for all of us for the next 20 years.

It's identified a number of new sections of spectrum - spectrum bands - that, when combined with future developments in mobile technology, such as 5G, and more advanced mobile networks, could boost mobile broadband capacity by more than 25 times by 2030, it's estimated.

Ofcom is working to increase the amount of spectrum available for mobile broadband in a number of areas:

  • Digital terrestrial TV spectrum - No decisions have been made yet, but Ofcom is thinking about rearranging the bands used for Freeview and the like to free up some spectrum sometime after 2018
  • Former Ministry of Defence spectrum - It's suitable for mobile broadband and likely to be auctioned off for commercial use sometime between 2015 and 2016
  • Potential new spectrum - Ofcom has identified bands that could be used for mobile broadband in the long run, including the ones used for radar and satellite links
  • White spaces - These are the gaps between the bands used for digital terrestrial TV and Ofcom is organising a pilot to road-test how it can be used over the next six months

According to Ofcom, the extra spectrum is roughly seven times the amount auctioned off to mobile networks earlier this year for 4G. The fourth generation of mobile communications provides mobile broadband up to 10 times faster than the 3G you've probably been using for the past few years.

This extra speed makes it possible for you to stream films and TV in high-definition (HD), make video calls and play online multiplayer games when you're out and about without needing a Wi-Fi hotspot.

And the likelihood of more and more of us doing more data-hungry online activities on mobile broadband over the next few years is why Ofcom is making sure there's enough data to go round.

Ed Richards, the head honcho at Ofcom, said: "The demands for mobile data will only increase as millions more wireless devices connect to the internet and each other. We're looking at ways to use spectrum more efficiently and consider future releases of prime spectrum. By doing so, we can help to meet the significant demands placed on our wireless infrastructure."

If you do a lot on mobile broadband and you're always reaching and breaching your data allowance, Three is probably the best network for you at present as it's the only one in the UK to offer all-you-can-eat data plans, which you can get for your phone, tablet or laptop.

Three doesn't yet offer 4G, but it plans to start next month. It won't cost you anything extra if you already have a 4G device and all-you-can-eat data plans will still be available on Three 4G too, which is ace considering other networks ain't too generous when it comes to 4G data allowances.

If you can't wait until then, the cheapest pay monthly 4G plan in the UK at the moment will set you back £16 a month on EE, although it comes with only 500MB of data.

The cheapest on O2 and Vodafone, whose 4G coverage isn't as good as EE's, both cost £26, and come with 1GB and 6GB respectively, although the latter only comes with that much data until 31 January, 2014.

Click here for more on mobile broadband

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