Exciting times are ahead: 4G is coming. We don’t know what it means exactly, but we understand it’s going to be mobile broadband on steroids and we wantsss it preciousssss.
While the specifics of 4G, or LTE (long-term evolution), remain vaguely-defined, it seems we should expect to get internet speeds on our phones of up to (whisper it) 100 megabytes per second (Mbps). This is a whopping 25 times faster than the average broadband connection we currently get at home. And yes, that’s from using just the phone network – no need to find a WiFi spot.
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced it will start auctioning off the 4G mobile spectrums in 2012, with the goal of securing nationwide coverage. We will have to wait a bit longer, until 2013 or possibly even 2014, before we get to enjoy the benefits of 4G, but at least the ball is starting to roll.
The US, Japan and a few European countries are already well on their way on 4G rollout, despite investment having been delayed during the recession. Annoyingly, it seems UK authorities have been waiting until the switching off of the analogue TV signal, scheduled for 2012, according to Ofcom. This will free up the 800MHz band, which, along with the 2.6 GHz band, is ideal for wiespread mobile coverage.
Speed is of the essence with 4G: we are told we can expect download rates of up to 1 gigabyte per second (Gbps). With 3G, we are dealing with an average speed of 1Mbps. So that means streaming internet content with ease on your mobile: everything from music videos to watching repeats of ‘Come dine with me’ on the bus in the morning.
It will be a happy day for those of us who like looking at videos of cats in boxes on YouTube, but mobile broadband will also have more, eh, business-relevant implications.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said:
‘The auction is not only critical to the future of the UK mobile telecommunications market but it is also of significant importance to the wider economy. It will support a wide range of data services that are fast becoming essential features of the modern world.’
Voice calling won’t be all that affected by 4G, which is mainly a data thing. But give it a few more years and the voice function will start to seem pretty secondary to everything else our smartphones can do.