4G on consumer mobile devices is a red herring until battery life improves, according to Claranet, but the benefits for businesses are likely to be “real and immediate”.
With the launch of the UK's first 4G network, EE, earlier this month, and the news that Apple's new iPhone 5 will support LTE connectivity, excitement is starting to build around what superfast mobile internet will bring to consumers.
However, Claranet’s UK managing director, Michel Robert, says that patchy coverage and short battery life means that 4G may not prove the immediate boon that many are hoping for.
“4G absolutely kills mobile batteries: a combination of the increased processing power required for data-intensive communications, and the need to switch between 4G and 3G networks in areas of patchy coverage,” he said.
“Until this issue is resolved, 4G will be most relevant to businesses, not consumers,”
Robert said that businesses will be able to use a 4G-enabled router to access cheap, fast and effective backup connectivity in the event of any disruption to their main network. Rather than invest in redundant physical networks, businesses will be able to connect via a superfast mobile connection.
“The implications for businesses could be immediate, by enabling them to switch seamlessly to a service delivered over the mobile spectrum at a fraction of the cost of a redundant cable connection, making it especially attractive to smaller businesses,” said Robert.
“And because this would predominantly involve mains powered devices, the issue of battery life doesn’t arise.”
EE switched on its 4G network in four UK cities on 11 September, so that the company’s engineers could begin live testing and systems integration in preparation for the commercial rollout.
The LTE network will become available to consumers and businesses in London, Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham in the coming weeks, and is expected to launch in 12 more cities – Edinburgh, Belfast, Derby, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton – by Christmas.
Meanwhile, mobile operator O2 is in discussions with communications regulator Ofcom to bring the timeline of its spectrum auction forward, in an effort not to be left behind in the 4G race.
The 4G spectrum auction in the UK, originally planned for September 2008, has suffered repeated setbacks, and is now scheduled for the last quarter of 2012, meaning that operators will not be able provide 4G services in these bands until 2014.