4G Mobile Broadband Guide
4G is the fourth generation of mobile phone technology, following on from 2G and 3G. 4G offers download speeds that are around five times faster than 3G, allowing you to quickly surf the web on mobiles, tablets and laptops. Here at Broadband Expert, we’ve put this guide together so you can find out more about this exciting development in mobile broadband.
What is 4G?
As we mentioned earlier, 4G is the next generation of mobile phone technology. 2G, released in the early nineties, allowed the mobile phone user to make calls and send text messages. 3G, which came into operation in the early 2000′s, also fulfils these requirements as well as allowing you access to the internet. 3G networks are currently the most widely available form of mobile communication in the UK, however as 4G is begun to be used more widely, this may change.
4G’s download speeds are comparable with fixed-line home broadband and are five times quicker than 3G. Ofcom state that a music album will take around 20 minutes to download on a 3G phone. Whereas the same album will only take 3 minutes to download on a 4G handset. EE say that the average download speeds are between 8 and 10Mbps with a maximum speed of 40Mbps. Upload speed are also fast, typically 5-6Mbps and a top speed of up to 15Mbps.
Who supplies 4G and where is it available?
EE was approved by Ofcom in August 2012 to use its existing 1800 MHz air-wave capacity to deliver 4G. At the moment, coverage is limited to major cities and towns. Check EE’s website to see if you are covered.
In February, Ofcom auctioned off licences for the 1800 MHz and 2.6GHz frequency frequency bands. 800MHz is part of the frequencies that were ‘freed-up’ when the analogue terrestrial TV was switched off and is considered ideal for broadband coverage. The 2.6GHz band is earmarked by Ofcom as well-suited for delivering higher speed downloads. The combined availability of the two bands will give widespread coverage and the increased capacity to cope with significant demand in urban areas.
The licences were won by Vodafone, EE, Telefonica UK, Niche Spectrum Ventures and Hutchinson 3G UK. These competing services will be available by late spring or summer 2013. Ofcom estimate that the whole of the UK population will be able to receive 4G mobile services by the end of 2017 at the latest.
Ofcom estimate that by 2030, demand for mobile data could be 80 times more than it is today. To meet this demand, they believe that more mobile spectrum is needed along with new technologies that make broadband more efficient. It is now planning to support the release of further spectrum for future ’5G’ services.
What are the advantages of 4G Mobile Broadband?
The biggest selling point of 4G mobile broadband is the ability to get superfast speeds comparable to good fixed broadband connections whilst on the move on your mobile phone or on your laptop via a USB dongle modem. With 4G speeds streaming audio and video content is at your fingertips, loved ones are video phone call away.
Mobile broadband means that business people can prepare presentations and check emails while travelling to work or an important meeting. Students can use it to access study resources in lectures or to work while travelling home. Travellers who are going from one country to another can keep in touch with their nearest and dearest no matter how far away they are.
4G is currently offered by EE and have an increasing number of deals. They are reported to be increasing their download speed to around 80Mbps for an even quicker service. With other 4G services about to come onto the market, expect levels of service and speed to increase, while prices come down.
What are the disadvantages of 4G Mobile Broadband?
Mobile internet access is currently more restricted than that of a fixed line connection. Unlimited download deals are hard to find with capped download packages being the most common. Despite 4G providing a great leap forward in speed, you will still be subject to download limits, so heavy users such as online gamers may be better off with an unlimited broadband deal.
Although being much faster than 3G, 4G is much more expensive and is currently only available in large towns and cities. 3G is offered by multiple companies, whereas 4G is only available through EE, limiting your choice of pricing plans and download limits.
Prospective 4G customers should also be aware that when other providers come onto the market, they may be using different frequencies to each other. For instance, if you had a contract with one company and then swapped over to a sim-only contract with another provider, you may lose your 4G functionality. Therefore it is advised to pick a handset that can receive 4G on several frequencies.