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Mobile broadband generic

A combination of technologies is needed to cope with rising broadband usage, a leading cabinet minister has suggested.

Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, said the growing popularity of mobile devices is leading to an exponential rise in data consumption.

He said that with the wider availability of tablets, dongles and smartphones, mobile data demands are tripling every year.

The government expects usage to be 18 times its current level by 2016 as the number of mobile connected devices globally reaches ten billion.

"Our working assumption must therefore be that the preferred method of going online will be a mobile device - whether linked to high speed wireless in buildings or networks outside them," Mr Hunt stated.

"But in order to cope with capacity, we will need to get that mobile signal onto a fibre backbone as soon as possible."

He said there should be "no false choice" between mobile and fixed line, or fibre and high-speed wireless.

"All technologies – including satellite - are likely to have a part to play," Mr Hunt argued.

"Our approach must be flexible enough to harness them all."

Last month, the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications accused the government of focusing on fibre at the expense of other solutions as it plots the UK's national broadband strategy.

But Mr Hunt dismissed claims that fibre-to-the-cabinet connections are the sum of the government's ambitions.

He explained that part of the government's strategy for improving UK broadband services is to free up spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands for the launch of next-generation mobile broadband.

The launch of 4G services - potentially in 2013, following Ofcom's upcoming auction - should provide additional mobile network capacity and help cope with rising data demands.

It should also ensure that mobile broadband services are available to more people living outside the major urban areas.

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