Olaf Swantee, CEO of UK number one operator EE, highlighted the importance of close relationships between device makers and operators as 4G networks roll out, arguing that “you can’t just buy a device and say it’s 4G ready, then bang it on the network”.
Speaking at an update yesterday on the company’s LTE plans, the executive said that at launch “we worked for months and months with the device suppliers to be sure that we would have the right devices to make sure that the network really comes to life.”
“That is obviously something that is quite logical to do, but I can tell you when you visit other markets or other countries, a lot of times 4G was introduced more as a pure mobile broadband service and was not optimised from a device perspective from the start,” he continued.
Among the companies EE is working with is Apple, which is widely reported to be “pre-qualifying” networks before making its iPhone 5 available with LTE support.
Swantee said: “We agree with Apple. In a world where you move away from pure voice and text, you need to make sure that the mobile internet experience is good and its solid. We have seen many 4G networks that were not announcing the leading smartphones on their network because their 4G network doesn’t support a proper customer experience.”
The CEO also said that it is “quite hard work” to optimise devices for LTE networks: “I’ve seen the labs, I have seen the devices, I’ve seen how many hours and how many engineers are required to make a 4G device work on a 4G network. This is not easy stuff.”
He noted: “That’s why we are a bit surprised that some of our competitors claim that they have a 4G ready device when they don’t have a 4G network yet.”
This closer working relationship between device makers and operators reflects the evolving roles of the players as the mobile industry develops. “For years the mobile networks were not pushing the ecosystem. We as a company are now pushing the boundaries of what is possible with devices and software applications,” Swantee said.
“We are working now with our roadmaps, with device suppliers, and we tell them: ‘come on, where is your next product, where is your next application. What can you do with our network technology?’ And that’s a big change,” he observed.