O2 UK beefs up its data network

Anticipating increased demand for mobile data services, and perhaps seeking to offset criticism over congestion, O2 UK has announced plans build out 1,500 new network sites in 2010.

The nationwide upgrade plan will increase capacity across the country, with 200 new sites planned for London alone, 40 of which will be live by Christmas 2009.

Derek McManus, chief technology officer for O2 UK said the investment will cost hundreds of millions of pounds and follows a £500m investment over the last two years in order to meet demand for data services from hungry handsets like the Apple iPhone and Palm Pre.

According to Informa, subscribers to mobile broadband services worldwide reached 186 million in 2008 and that figure is set to soar by the end of 2009 thanks to the adoption of smartphones. Conversely, the impact of file size and download duration to mobile broadband operator networks is tremendous in their efforts to reduce traffic and increase capacity. Research recently released by Informa and mobile internet platform provider Bytemobile reveals that key players are providing a sluggish mobile data experience based on webpage size and download performance.

Indeed, has been in touch with O2 on a couple of occasions regarding the performance of mobile data services in central London recently. The proposed upgrade may well do wonders for service performance.

According to the carrier, O2’s 3G network covers over 84 per cent of the UK population and is 100 per cent HSDPA enabled. And earlier this year O2 and Vodafone announced a pan-European network sharing agreement that in the UK will see both companies focus on joint building of new sites and the consolidation of existing 2G and 3G sites.

“In the past 12 months the mobile industry has seen an unprecedented change in demand. The introduction of world-class devices, in combination with a wide variety of data applications, has brought about a dramatic change in customer behaviour and created an exponential demand on mobile data networks. To put this in context, watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can use the same capacity on the network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously,” said McManus.

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