Mobile operator O2 is to overhaul its much criticised mobile network, promising to spend millions in order to give it ‘significant headroom for mobile data’
The nationwide plan will apparently cost O2 and Telefonica, its Spanish owners, hundreds of millions of pounds. It will build 1,500 new network sites across the UK in 2010, with 200 sites planned for London alone, 40 of which will apparently be live by Christmas 2009.
“O2 today unveiled plans to accelerate growth of its mobile network and build significant headroom for mobile data, in a multi-year programme of investment,” said the operator.
“Anticipating growth in demand for mobile services, we have quarter on quarter increased investment in our voice and data networks,” said Derek McManus, chief technology officer for O2 in the UK. “Our £500 million investment over the last two years has enabled us to offer our customers the best products in the world, including the Apple iPhone and Palm Pre.”
There is little doubt that mobile networks are currently creaking under the strain of mobile broadband. For example, watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can gobble the same capacity on a GSM network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously.
Last month analyst firm Informa warned that mobile data traffic is set to increase 25 fold by 2012, and that mobile operators need to take action in order to imminent data traffic jams. Other experts have repeatedly warned that GSM networks were designed for voice, and not for carrying data.
“We are now aggressively accelerating our network growth programme to ensure we have significant headroom for the future,” said McManus.
O2’s 3G network currently covers 84 percent of the UK population and is 100 percent HSDPA enabled. That said, O2 has been repeatedly criticised over its 84 percent coverage, which is the least 3G coverage of any mobile operator in the UK. It only reached that level after Ofcom threatened it with a fine for not fulfilling the coverage requirements of its 3G licence.
Back in March this year, O2 announced that it was pooling base stations with Vodafone in an effort to save money. 100 joint sites are now live in the programme with more planned for roll-out in 2010.
O2 and Ofcom did not respond to calls from eWEEK Europe UK at the time of writing.