Back in May 2010 we reported that the European Commission came to the decision that operators across the continent should use the 800 MHz band to provide mobile broadband. It took almost two years, but the European Commission is now saying that countries are required to open up the 800 MHz band by January 1, 2013 or else … well, they didn’t exactly specify a punishment. Anyway, that’s a little more than 10 months away. Right now the few countries that offer 4G LTE (Finland, Sweden, Portugal, Germany, Poland, we’re probably missing a few) are doing it by using a weird mix of 2600 MHz, 1800 MHz, and some are even refarming their 900 MHz spectrum. The goal here is to make one band a standard in much the same way that Europe standardized on 2100 MHz for 3G and 3.5G. Many countries have already held their auctions, so today’s announcement is more for the laggards than anything else.
Is Europe really behind when it comes to 4G LTE? Yes and no. Yes, Europe has far less 4G LTE than America does, but at the same time Europe has some of the most advanced 3G networks out there. Lots of operators are already using 21 Mbps HSPA+ and quite a few have even upgraded to the 42 Mbps flavor. We’re big fans of speed improvements, but we’ve always questioned what exactly are we going to do with a 50 megabit connection on our smartphones? Surf the web faster? Maybe, but at what cost? Nearly every 4G LTE smartphone we’ve reviewed suffers from terrible battery life issues. Those will no doubt be fixed due to advances in hardware, but still, it feels like American beta tested 4G LTE so that everyone else around the world could get the bug free version.
Long story short: 4G LTE is coming to Europe, eventually, but is it needed?