updated 10:45 am EDT, Fri March 18, 2011
O2 UK first with 900MHz 3G
O2 UK on Friday said it was the first British carrier to use 3G on the 900MHz band. A green light from telecom regulator Ofcom has given HSPA and UMTS devices that will work on the lower frequency, including the iPad 2 and iPhone 4, as much as a 30 percent faster download rate. The greater room created by the frequency has also led to an immediate 50 percent capacity upgrade.
The 900MHz airwaves had previously only been allowed for 2G data but had beenbeen cleared by the EU in late 2009 before passing through the UK in January.
London residents are the largest group to get 900MHz 3G, but quiet deployments have also taken place in Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. Other cities are coming in the months ahead, O2 said.
The capacity upgrades come just on the verge of the iPad 2 launch in the UK next week and should address frequent issues with performance in dense cities. While not as severe as AT&T's problems, the large volume of iPhone and Android users on O2 has led to the network bogging down. The effect is similar to AT&T's 850MHz upgrades, where having a second frequency option both improved the available space and gave better performance by improving the range and indoor penetration versus a much higher frequency.