4G speed is one of the first big technology stories of 2013 but what is 4G and 4G speed?
The first of those questions is quite simple to answer. 4G is the next generation of mobile phone technology; the next step up from 3G. It is based on a technology called Long Term Evolution (LTE) which is far more efficient than 3G allowing more data through the available bandwidth.
There also are no ‘native’ voice components in a 4G network. Previous generations of mobile networks had voice and data components, 4G is built purely for data. Voice services will be delivered over this fast 4G speed data network using ‘Voice Over Internet Protocol’ or VOIP technology.
So it’s newer and more efficient than current mobile technology but what most of us just want to know is how much faster is 4G speed?
Theoretically 4G can offer a download speed of over 600Mbps. However in the real world expect to see a 4G speed of around 10 – 50Mbps. This is at least twice as fast as the latest 3G technology and compares very nicely to the UK average fixed line broadband speed of 9Mbps (I.E. What you typically get from your home internet). To put that in context, these speeds are good enough to enable you to watch TV or stream an HD film.
So when is it coming? Well 4G speed is already available in 18 cities across the UK. At the end of October 2012 4G was launched by EE (the merger between Orange and T-Mobile) after they were given special permission from the telecoms regulator, OFCOM, to use some of their existing 2G bandwidth for 4G. The other operators will get the chance to bring 4G speed to their networks after the 4G auctions take place at the start of 2013. Most of the country should get 4G speed by the end of 2014.
For a business owner what does this new exciting 4G technology offer?
Well for starters having true mobile broadband with a speed equal to or greater than fixed line will allow people to work more ‘on the move’. Staff will be able to access the internet and their business systems from anywhere as if they were in the office, allowing them more flexibility to do business when and where they want. For instance, travel time can be turned into more productive time. Why spend an hour travelling back to the office from a meeting when you can just pitch up anywhere (obviously somewhere safe not just the hard shoulder), connect to the office using a 4G tablet or laptop with a 4G dongle and write up what you’ve just discussed whilst it’s still fresh in your mind. In a coffee shop, no need to use the Wi-Fi as you’re getting faster 4G speed and its more secure so you can get into your office systems and send off that quote you just promised.
The voice being delivered as data (VoIP) element will also create potential business improvements. . It will make phone calls more like an instant messaging experience with users able to get presence information on the people they’re calling (i.e. see if they’re available before calling them) and able to switch between voice and video calls seamlessly. Voice and data applications can also be linked seamlessly – imagine being called by somebody asking for directions and simply starting the maps application and then drawing directions on the map while the other person watches, all without dropping the call.
And finally with all new technology comes new opportunity. The operators will build this new network, but take it from me as somebody that worked in mobile telecoms for 10 years, it’s more likely to be somebody outside the industry thinking outside the box that comes up with the ‘killer app’ that really make use of this new 4G speed.
Author: Scott Coombs – Regional Director – The PC Support Group