Network Picture1There’s been a lot of noise over the last 12 months about 4G services, and depending on which advert is stuck in your head you will hear yourself saying “it’s a no brainer”, thinking about Yoda or why a Cat should be more Dog!! But here’s the thing, I wanted to help businesses understand 4G more than how fast the speeds are, by talking about 3 things you really need to know to help give you and your business users a head start before you change providers or upgrade equipment.

To start with its probably worth going back a step and explaining 4G. LTE, an abbreviation for Long Term Evolution commonly marketed as 4G, is a standard for wireless communications for high speed data over a mobile device. 4G was commercially launched in the UK by Everything Everywhere (EE) in October 2012 after bringing both Orange and T-Mobile brands together under one umbrella and utilising the already in place 1800MHz frequency band. The reason for the head start over its rival’s was simple, EE had the right frequency band (1800MHz) in place from day one when Orange and T-Mobile were issued their licenses by OFCOM back in the mid 90’s. And what they continue to use today to deliver your Voice (2G/3G), text and data (2G/3G).

It was great achievement and kudos for EE to start rolling out its 4G network a year or so before it’s competitors, giving the UK its first taste of what we can expect when using 4G for data services over a mobile network.

Hopefully by explaining the 3 things you really need to know about 4G in the UK, I can give you a better understanding on which mobile network you should consider when looking at your next move.

1. Coverage
The first question any business owner should ask is “do my users work in a 4G coverage area?” and it’s a fair point, as why pay for a service you are unlikely to use anytime soon. But be careful with what you read as most networks like to publish outdoor coverage rather than what it’s truly like indoors.
Network operators have a choice to make based upon the frequency bands they purchased to deliver 4G coverage across the UK. Some networks will go for the large thin and crusty pizza analogy “spread it thin and cover the UK as quickly as possible” which will have an impact on the data speeds you use. Or a smaller deep pan pizza which covers less of an area (less coverage) but gives you a better and faster data experience when more users are using the same services on the same cell site.

As it stands today EE have a population coverage of over 75%, with O2 at 45% and Vodafone at 40% approximately.

2. Capacity
Gone with the days when mobile email over a BlackBerry device was seen as cutting edge and using a 3G dongle would revolutionise your laptop. 10 years on and 4G is that game changer we have all been waiting for. Mainly because the speeds are better than most home broadband connections and the willingness for all mobile networks to reach 98% of outdoor population coverage by 2017.

The below table illustrates the before and after share of the mobile spectrum across the mobile operators in the UK.

Mobile Spectrum 2014

So with more users having access to Smartphones using various business applications to stay in touch with their customers and colleagues it’s no surprise that we need to look at network capacity to understand why it is so important.

Each mobile network has paid a significant sum of money to purchase what they believe to be the best frequency bands and spectrum to launch their 4G services, with Vodafone paying £200 million more than its closest rival by spending just over £790 million.

As you can see both EE and Vodafone have the largest share of overall spectrum in the UK, giving them the edge over the competition by potentially managing more connections on their network at any one time, along with quicker and more reliable data speeds.

3. Innovation
So what can we expect, well more of the same with regards to data speeds with the Next generation of 4G called 4G+. EE have already demonstrated this by launching 4G+ in Central London with download speeds reaching in excess of 140Mbps!!

And as 4G is currently only being used for Data the next big step will be Voice over LTE (VoLTE), delivering Voice over 4G to give a more enhanced voice quality also known as HD Voice.

In summary and depending on what you require as your primary service from a mobile network, (Voice only, fast Data speeds or a good provider of both), please consider the 3 points to help you future proof your decision to stay where you are or move providers.

What I’ve discussed in my recent post “4G – 3 things you need to know” are a result of my knowledge in the telecoms industry, numerous recommendations to various businesses both large and small and having an understanding of radio frequencies.

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