When you look at your phone today the vast majority of us will more than likely still see a 3G icon. 3G is the current standard mobile network available. A few years ago it represented the cutting edge of mobile network connectivity. 4G has now become the next step in mobile technology boasting up to 10x faster speeds than that of 3G. 4G will undoubtedly become the standard for networks over the next few years, allowing for improved speed and network coverage over its 3G predecessor.
The switch to 4G is not without its problems however. 4G is not currently the perfect solution for many consumers. Simply put the coverage for 4G isn’t there at the time of writing. EE is currently the only provider of 4G coverage; they primarily aim at business mobiles but also provide 4G enabled consumer phones. 4G is slowly gaining in popularity as consumers contracts come to an end and they will naturally upgrade to 4G capable phones. This is where another issue with 4G arises.
As EE are currently the only supplier of the 4G network the contract prices are expectedly high. This is understandable as the cost of replacing or upgrading transmitters to support 4G signals will come at a significant cost to the supplier. The current coverage is currently limited to major cities but continues to steadily increase over the months. The higher price of the contracts on top of the cost of relatively expensive 4G handsets may put off early adopters to the service. This should start to change once other suppliers start to provide alternative 4G coverage the prices should begin to fall to remain competitive, which can only be of benefit to the consumer.
4G is soon to be delivered over the 800 MHz frequency by major operators such as O2, Vodafone and Three. With the digital switch-over complete in the UK as of the end of 2012, many homes have remained with cable or satellite solutions or have been forced to switch to other free services such as Freeview. This allows all homes to access the new digital signal that now solely delivers TV broadcasts. Freeview has had slight teething trouble with bad reception through the transition but most of the signal problems have been eliminated since the full switch-over. That is until the introduction of 4G however. The introduction of this service using the 800 MHz frequency is likely to affect the reception of 90,000 homes in the UK. The signal has remained unaffected by 4G this far due to EE using the 1800 MHz band which does not interfere with Freeview broadcasts. A company called at800 have provided a solution and are aiming to minimise the effects of this interference however by providing affected users with filters. These filters are designed to stop any potential interference from occurring so hopefully all affected households will remain unaffected by the signal.
Smartphone’s are known to have notoriously shallow battery life. The batteries themselves are of a high capacity but what the fact that they are required to power a high resolution screen and hungry processers making them unfit for purpose even when not connected to a network. Due to the lack of coverage that 4G currently has this problem is going to get worse before it improves. 4G enabled phones will not have access to a constant 4G connection, for this reason the phone will be constantly checking to see if it can access a 4G connection. This would understandably require more battery power to consistently check for a high speed connection. What’s more, 4G technology typically requires the use of multiple antennae to receive the signal which will also take considerably more battery power away from the phone to power this technology. The flagship 4G phones have improved the device battery power in an attempt to try and combat this issue, but the device itself requires more power than their predecessor, so it is unlikely that this increase in power will solve this flaw with 4G.
To conclude 4G is not quite ready for mainstream adoption, at least not at the time of writing. It won’t be long until the likes of O2, Vodafone and Three can provide their 4G services to consumers, which should certainly help to plug some of the gaps in the UK’s coverage. Once the coverage is at its peak it is likely that a lot of the problems described above will be resolved or will become less of an issue as the technology works out the kinks.
Andy Morley is an author and experienced business owner, currently working for an award winning telecoms and business mobiles company called A1 Comms based in Alfreton, Derby.