4G is upon us, well, some of us, maybe at a little slower speeds than most had hoped for, nevertheless, it is here. Boasting speeds up to 10 times faster than current 3G services, 4G (standing for fourth generation mobile communications standards) offers the next step in mobile internet.
Initially being offered by the EE network, a joint venture of T-Mobile and Orange, the service is being made available to 11m people in 10 different cities upon release.
EE is planning on investing £1.5bn into 4G development across the UK to deliver super fast mobile internet to their customers. EE’s CEO Olaf Swantee said to siliconrepublic.com: “We’re investing £1.5bn in our network to be the first company to offer mobile 4G in the UK, alongside the biggest 3G network.”
In addition to speeds up to 50mbps, which is the speed in which data is downloaded over the internet, EE is also boasting that 4G services will supply a much more reliable service. But what does this mean for Leeds?
Businesses should benefit greatly from the arrival of 4G. With its super-fast speeds, 4G offers faster internet than a lot of fixed line broadband services. Meaning that people who work on the road will no longer have to put up with slower speeds and be limited to what they can achieve without a wireless connection.
The ability to send and receive larger data files as well as search the internet quickly is a valuable asset to anybody working away from the office. Free wireless is hard to come by and even with an unlimited data package, waiting to download a large file via 3G is an arduous task. Angela Proietti is an area manager for Phones4u Leeds, she says: “I work all over Leeds in different stores and need to be in constant contact with all stores. This involves downloading store performance reports and new training packages. Before 4G I had to take my laptop everywhere, now all I need is my smartphone.”
For the digital and mobile world in particular, 4G will have a marked difference on the way that content is generated as well as accessed. It will open up new avenues for digital and mobile businesses for delivering their product. Lee Hicken, director of Hebe Media and Leeds Online is looking to capitalize on 4G when it becomes more stable in the area, he said: “We are launching our mobile app in the first quarter next year so 4G coming along is perfect timing for that. It basically means, when we are proposing new ideas and features we do not have to rule things out because of speed issues anymore. Our whole mobile thinking is geared towards geo-sensitive data so having a fast mobile network is critical to our development and our users experience.”
It appears that, in terms of time saving and logistics 4G is proving useful for business in Leeds. But is it changing the face of business and opening up new opportunities in addition to just saving time?
Tests conducted on the 4G network produced possible speeds of up to 50mbps. While these speeds have been achieved, they aren’t an accurate projection of what speeds will be available to all consumers. EE forecast average speeds of 10 to 12mbps upon release.
For regular consumers this means cutting down the time it takes to download a music track from 21 seconds to a mere four. Ashley Peat, 21, a student at Leeds Metropolitan thinks 4G will help him, he says: “I think it’s amazing, we are finally catching up with technology. We have been in the dark ages for a while now and it’s about time we got 4G. I just bought a 4G phone, it’s a little unreliable at the moment, but it’s making a difference to my university work already.”
It could also spell the end of storage problems for consumers. With the ability to store and download large files at will online, internal device storage will no longer pose a problem. Aaron Patterson, 22, a DJ in Leeds says: “I don’t have it yet but will be getting it when I can renew my phone contract. I am a DJ and listen to a lot of music, no phone at the minute offers me enough storage, the ability to stream music instantly with 4G will be a life saver.”
As with any new service there have been some teething issues with 4G, most notably coverage issues. Having been released on 31st October, there are still many areas not getting any 4G coverage at all.
Leeds is one of ten cities boasting 4G connectivity, yet only three of 29 areas receive good coverage, these are Woodhouse, Burley and Armley. Eleven areas receive moderate coverage, the city centre being one of them, along with five areas getting low coverage and ten getting none at all.
EE plans to have 70 percent of the UK covered by December 2013, so it is likely that the coverage issues will be resolved in time.
Another issue in the early days of 4G appears to be price. Firstly, there is no package that offers unlimited data, the most expensive at £56 offers 8GB of data allowance, something that customers aren’t best pleased about. Tafadzwa Mkandla, 22, a student in Leeds wanted 4G to help with his university work, but found the plans to be too expensive and short of expectations, he said: “I want it for university, but if I am paying so much a month, I want unlimited data. I use a lot on 3G at the moment, so I can only imagine that 4G is going to use a lot more.”
With rival networks Vodafone and 02 set to release 4G services of their own in early 2013, it remains to be seen whether this will bring any improvements to the price.