Technology lag

I was interested to see a blog post discussing the benefits of the new 4G wireless standards currently in development. It struck me just how long it really takes for a technology to be in use by the majority of people. Here we are at the dawn of the 4G world and yet 3G isn’t widely deployed. The 3G licences were auctioned in the UK around ten years ago.

I’ve had an Apple iPhone 3G for a few months now and I am able to use a 3G signal for a small fraction of the time. In fact, outside of major cities, you’ve very little chance of getting a decent 3G signal. Most of the time I’m stuck on GPRS speeds or worse. If 3G hasn’t spread outside of the main metropolitan areas ten years after the original spectrum auctions, then it seems likely that there is no business case for ever doing so. If it isn’t commercially viable to implement 3G then what hope is there for 4G?

I wonder if the auction process itself could be to blame for the patchy deployment? Whilst the government in the UK did very nicely out of the auction, the bidders did pay very handsomely for their spectrum. Perhaps a better solution would have been to cap the auction price but place a service guarantee onto the bidders to ensure a more even deployment.

A broader implementation of 3G technology I’m sure would be a boon to the hi tech sector in the UK and would have had the effect of increasing economic activity. Whether the increased economic activity would have made up for the shortfall in the spectrum auction revenue is hard to say. But, the auctions were one off events and the increased economic activity would keep paying year after year.

Will the areas that don’t already have 3G never benefit from high speed wireless internet access? It isn’t looking promising…