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    4G in our time


    So have our lasting truce. Yes, this week, an embattled public servant emerged from tense negotiations with warring parties waving a piece of paper, proclaiming that we would have 4G in our time.

    If that’s a bit oblique, it’s just a smart-arsed Friday newsletter sort of a way of saying that the UK will have 4G from EE from 30 October, and from the other operators a little bit (up to six months) earlier than scheduled in 2013.

    So who are we to credit for this happy state of affairs? Well, chief paper waver “Mr” Ed Richards, of Ofcom, said it was him because he had kicked Arqiva up the backside and got it to commit to clearing TV channels quicker. He also intimated that if he hadn’t given the nod to EE using its 1800MHz spectrum for 4G, that wouldn’t have given O2 and Vodafone a heart attack. If they hadn’t suffered this cardiac event, then they wouldn’t have gone to war, or the negotiating table, whichever you like. And if they hadn’t gone to the table, then we could still have been in the stand-off. All clear so far?

    O2’s Ronan Dunne, who this week tweeted a homily about how sixteen year olds with a dream can achieve anything they want, presumably dreamt of a time when people would stop asking him, “Why doesn’t the iPhone 5 support 800/2600GHz LTE" and instead dreamt of a time when he was able to say, “The Samsungs and Nokias are quite good, you know. And that Huawei is alright too." Anyway, Dunne was of the opinion that O2's "intervention" had brought its own 4G rollout forward by six months. 

    Naturally, the new Government minister responsible, Maria Miller, who saw a chance of a quick win and duly nodded in a sitter at the far post, was also keen to let us know that it was the government who had got the ball over the line. (This newsletter is winning the most metaphors in 900 words prize, if nothing else).

    Olaf Swantee, the man who drove home the advantage of the early adoption of 1800LTE, and made it a key plank of EE’s corporate strategy (along with hammering through T-Mobile’s staff numbers like Death with a deadline to meet), merely sat and twiddled his moustaches and pondered his next move.  

    Meanwhile, Three UK wondered when its invite to the meeting was arriving (only joking, Three!, there's a webcast available for you).

    Aside from such breathless matters, there was the small matter of a nice piece innovation from Turkcell, that quiety introduced a mobile payments solution that, if it works, finds a way to put the mobile operator at the heart of mobile payments without

    1. requiring NFC SIMs
    2. relying on device makers to integrate NFC chips.

    That’s a big step, and it should be given some credit. Turkcell has tried NFC, don’t forget, both in-phone and through on-device NFC stickers. It has also had a physical pre-paid card offering for the past 18 months. So it has sort of taken a good look at the options and found a way to play in payments, without having to demand NFC devices and payment terminals all over the place.

    The operator is taking 10% from any loyalty offer redeemed by its wallet users. Its taking a slice of bill payments, and of financial transactions on e-commerce sites, and proximity payments.

    How has it done this? Well the key aspect is something as “simple” as a SIM applet that acts as the interface on feature phones (there’s a grown up app for smartphones), as well as using the SIM as a secure element. It limits an operator to only providing the service to its own users, rather than offering an app download to any user.

    So if it’s so easy, why hasn’t this been done before? Well, one answer is that many of the “hard” bits still remain – connections to banks, card scheme providers, retailers, loyalty scheme providers, security. What Turkcell has found is a way round the NFC chicken and egg of NFC acceptance infrastructure – NFC devices.

    For that it deserves plaudits, and a few enquiries from other operators who might like to know how it’s done.

    Keith Dyer
    Mobile Europe