Next gen net neutrality in doubt as O2 lays 4G framework

One of the big issues of late has been that of net neutrality; the fundamental principle that all internet traffic is equal regardless of the source of that traffic. Current 3G wireless providers such as O2 in the UK have been frustrated at the lack of opportunity to monetize high volume traffic generators such as online video on mobile devices into revenue streams. With this in mind they are looking to the next generation of devices based on LTE (Long Term Evolution).

LTE offers significantly more bandwidth to wireless devices, more akin to that of current fixed line connections. O2 has just started the process of working out business models for the next generation network which it hopes to introduce within the next 2 years. Given that effectively 2 bandwidth spectrums will run in parallel of 3G and LTE on these next gen handsets, this gives O2 the perfect opportunity to look at introducing some sort of improved data traffic management. Like many other wireless providers, it underestimated the explosion that has happened in mobile data since 2007, Apple's iPhone being a particular catalyst for this.

O2 denies, however, that it is seeking to cash in on content providers. In an interview with ZDnet, they were keen to make clear their intentions:

"What we will do is use the example of LTE to provide an equivalent of the M6 toll road, [so content providers can] choose that particular channel to put the most media-rich content through. It's using the network efficiently with a view to optimising the experience for the end user."

The wireless provider also states in its defense that it has signed up to a voluntary code of practice. The code requires it to make clear to the public what traffic shaping or management technologies that it places on its network.

The code so far has been signed by BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Vodafone and 3.

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16 Comments

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3G in major cities isn't always that great either, try surfing the web at 6pm on a train at Waterloo for example... it ain't happening at all.

As much as O2 are popular they are very behind when it comes to data networks and plans. Three UK are much better with less restrictions on what you can do. O2 don't seem capable of accommodating the data that is used in their network. I say this as an O2 Customer not Three.

I'm more interested in true 4G...ie 100Mbps connections. Sure the marginal increase in speed that today's "4G" gives is good, but not when providers cap the hell out of it.

SharpGreen said,
I'm more interested in true 4G...ie 100Mbps connections. Sure the marginal increase in speed that today's "4G" gives is good, but not when providers cap the hell out of it.

Its more likely than note that they'll be using traffic shaping, especially if the company is solely a wireless provider who doesn't have the wired infrastructure to fall back on.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

Its more likely than note that they'll be using traffic shaping, especially if the company is solely a wireless provider who doesn't have the wired infrastructure to fall back on.


Traffic SHAPING is one thing, I'm not too concerned with. My issue is with providers setting such low caps on usage..like 5 or 10GB and then on top of that charging a ridiculous amount per month for it.

I must be the only person who is looking forward to 4G, who isn't really interested in the extra speed.
I'm just glad that we will finally have a decent speed (faster than GPRS / EDGE) network on the lower frequencies, which will mean much better signal coverage (especially indoors).

I won't lie, it's always good to see technology advancing but having seen so many horror stories online on 4g coverage in the US in particular that I feel that us in the UK are pretty spoiled. On my iphone 4 with network 3 I comfortably hit about 3/4mbs almost everywhere. I know this isn't the norm but fortunately this level of speed is pretty adequate for almost everything I'd do on a smart phone. Bring on the future though!

empty said,
I won't lie, it's always good to see technology advancing but having seen so many horror stories online on 4g coverage in the US in particular that I feel that us in the UK are pretty spoiled. On my iphone 4 with network 3 I comfortably hit about 3/4mbs almost everywhere. I know this isn't the norm but fortunately this level of speed is pretty adequate for almost everything I'd do on a smart phone. Bring on the future though!

The US is also FAR larger

empty said,
I won't lie, it's always good to see technology advancing but having seen so many horror stories online on 4g coverage in the US in particular that I feel that us in the UK are pretty spoiled. On my iphone 4 with network 3 I comfortably hit about 3/4mbs almost everywhere. I know this isn't the norm but fortunately this level of speed is pretty adequate for almost everything I'd do on a smart phone. Bring on the future though!

I get 0.1Mbit down at best, I'd just be happy with improved 3G coverage outside major cities.

thatguyandrew1992 said,

The US is also FAR larger

I know, however I wasn't discussing the issues facing US 4g rollout, I was discussing the fact that 3g speeds are so good in the UK I don't feel that 4g is as pressing as it is over in the US. Also, most of the reports I've read about US rollout indicate that even in areas with 4g coverage the speeds are sporadic and inconsistent at best.

Hollow.Droid said,

I get 0.1Mbit down at best, I'd just be happy with improved 3G coverage outside major cities.

Nobody denied that there are pockets of no 3G or bad 3G coverage.

DiamondFootprint said,
This is good news, The UK is lacking behind when it comes to 4G networks. Glad to see one network is starting to make some plans.

Well it's not just the fault of the networks here. The spectrum itself isn't being auctioned until H1 2012 at the earliest, so they don't really have any choice but to continue optimising and improving on 3G until they're able to implement LTE in 2013. Planning ahead is always good though.

DiamondFootprint said,
This is good news, The UK is lacking behind when it comes to 4G networks. Glad to see one network is starting to make some plans.

I can't think of any country with a comprehensive 4G network up yet - heck, some countries don't even have comprehensive 3G coverage. I know where I live once you get out of the main centres it is pretty much 2G central on the largest carrier, with the second largest only being 3G nation wide due to moving straight from CDMA2000 to 850/2100 UMTS/HSDPA straight off the bat.