It’s hard to believe that we’ve now had 3G mobile internet in the UK for a decade. While coverage has massively improved since those early days it has still never quite lived up to its initial promise, and even now speeds are very often disappointing with 3G connections rarely exceeding 2-3Mb even in areas with strong signal.
In 2013 that’s pretty disappointing, so it’s good news that 4G has finally arrived. The next gen mobile data standard offers a significantly better performance, with real world speeds capable of more than 20Mb (and yes, we’ve actually seen this).
Having a mobile connection that’s faster than many of us get from a fixed line service opens up some interesting possibilities. Here’s just a few of things 4G could enable us to do…
Drop the home broadband
Since 4G offers such a fast connection it opens up the possibility of moving away from a traditional fixed line broadband service.
This could have several advantages. Being portable, you could take your broadband with you wherever you go, not only use it at home. It also means you would no longer need to pay for a landline, something that many of us only keep because it’s required for broadband.
And in some areas 4G may even be faster than the services offered by BT’s links.
The two caveats are coverage (which is limited right now, but 4G should be available to 98% of the population by 2017 according to network targets) and the cost. Presently 4G remains quite expensive (£12.99 only gets you a 1GB data limit according to our comparison table), though this should fall as more competitors enter the market.
The portability of high speed 4G is a major boon to many types of users. For businesses and students it means you can carry on working wherever you go (signal allowing), and anyone who likes to use their mobile internet link for entertainment purposes will find 4G is much better suited to gaming and streaming media.
Stay connected to the cloud
Online backup and file storage services, and cloud apps like Google Docs, rely upon a reliable connection to function. This is fine when you’re at home but it has been problematic over mobile broadband.
4G should improve matters. Obviously, it’s much faster so if you do want to backup or download files from cloud storage on the go you won’t be crawling along with the few megabits that 3G typically provides. That’s especially useful if you’re on a train when the connection can quickly drop off as you move between cell sites.
It’s also important to note that as part of the 4G frequency auction network providers had to agree to meet a minimum level of coverage. In some cases they are committed to supplying an indoor 4G signal to 98% of the UK’s population by 2017. So while 4G may only be available in a few locations right now we should see a huge improvement over the coming years, and eventually you may be able to rely far more upon your mobile broadband when it comes cloud storage.
Better rural broadband
Many people living in rural areas still do not have access to fast, affordable broadband. While there are plans in place to expand the coverage of fibre optic and ADSL services progress has been slow and there are still places in the UK which may be waiting a long time.
4G may be the answer. As the reach of the networks expands outside of major locations it could become available to those of you in the countryside, and will offer a far faster connection than existing ADSL or dial-up options!