How will 4G change the face of mobile?
For people based in the UK, it may feel like the wait for 4G mobile networking has been a particularly lengthy one. While other developed nations have jumped at the chance to roll out next generation high speed connectivity, various issues have hampered the implementation of similar services on our shores.
However, 4G is very nearly here, with the first providers receiving approval for the integration of LTE (long term evolution) network coverage recently and the impending spectrum auction to be held early next year, allowing other firms to jump on the bandwagon.
Of course, mobile internet access has been available for well over a decade and the gradual improvements to 3G coverage and speed have kept millions of customers online for some time now. Since this is the case, it is necessary to highlight the benefits that will come with 4G’s arrival and in doing so, indicate the increasing inadequacy of 3G in the modern world.
When it comes to 3G networking, current advertised speeds offered by network providers vary from 3.6Mbps to 7.2Mbps, but it is worth remembering that these are the theoretical maximum data rates available via this kind of networking technology.
In reality, people are rarely able to achieve anywhere close to their top download speed via 3G because of innumerable factors which can cause signal issues. Network traffic also causes problems, because with more people owning and using smartphones, there has been an increase in data congestion during peak usage periods.
Various studies have looked into 3G speeds, with the UK’s average hovering between 2Mbps and 3Mbps, depending on where you happen to be based. In addition, 3G coverage is still not universal, so there are areas which are completely off the grid altogether.
The 4G LTE networks which will soon be popping up across the UK, promise much faster speeds and the potential for better connection stability.
Quite what speed you will be able to achieve via 4G networking remains to be seen, although customers harnessing it in the US can typically expect to get a 20Mbps average connection. In ideal circumstances, it should offer up to 100Mbps download speeds, although again this is something that depends on many different circumstances, which cannot be easily predicted by providers.
The question that needs to be answered next is what precisely can be achieved once you have this extra bandwidth at your disposal via portable devices. Simply put, 4G should ideally give a mobile phone, tablet or laptop the ability to connect to the internet, at speeds which were previously attainable only via fixed line ADSL or fibre services.
People who regularly harness data intensive services while they are at home or in the office, will be able to continue to use these when they go out and about thanks to 4G. This includes things like cloud computing and VoIP, which are of course possible via existing 3G networks, but come with a much less consistent degree of connectivity and are, thus, far from ideal.
Making voice and video calls via digital data-based services, with high definition imaging and sound, is going to become increasingly popular as a result of 4G. This does mean that network providers will see revenue generated by traditional texts and calls drop, but an increasing reliance on data allowances will help them to stave off insolvency.
Business users in particular are likely to be early adopters of 4G services and the smartphone devices that will support them. While mobile broadband of the previous generation may not have lived up to its promise, with LTE onboard, the portable devices on the market will become increasingly valuable for daily operations.
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