BBC News

It's time to reap the benefits of 4G mobile networks

Viewpoint by Olaf Swantee
Chief executive, Everything Everywhere

image captionAt big events, 3G just does not cut it anymore. We need 4G, Olaf Swantee says, to evolve mobile networks further

The fourth generation of mobile technology - known as 4G and also referred to as Long Term Evolution (LTE) - is the next step in the evolution of mobile network technology.

It is built specifically to handle mobile internet and data more efficiently, allowing faster and more reliable mobile connectivity in a world where data usage is increasing 250% year on year.

To date, more than 40 countries have rolled out 4G and are already reaping the benefits of faster mobile networks.

These nations include economic powerhouses such as the USA, Russia and Japan, and also smaller countries such as Angola, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania.

These countries are investing in 4G for a very simple reason: they realise that technology is an engine for economic growth, one that will help existing businesses to grow while encouraging investment from overseas.

When the significant consumer, social and economic benefits of faster mobile connectivity are considered, it is clear that 4G is more than just an iterative improvement in mobile phone speeds.

With more - and more important - parts of our lives going online by the day, 4G will enable a fully connected world where nearly all of our digital devices are mobile-enabled and as a result become more flexible and integrated into our daily lives.

Consumers will be able to watch TV, video call, shop online and access social media, entertainment and information on the go more easily.

Plus they'll be able to get the most from mobile devices and apps that deliver best performance on 4G networks.

Meanwhile, all businesses that require connectivity, for example those that operate in entertainment, media and e-commerce, are set to benefit from faster and more reliable mobile data services, improving efficiency and productivity.

For developing nations where access to fixed line broadband connections are limited, 4G will bring super-high-speed connectivity for the first time and help them compete on a global scale.

There will also be significant gains for workers who use some form of mobile device. Many workers already use mobile internet on a daily basis for business purposes, such as checking email or accessing documents.

image caption4G connectivity brings significant benefits to the economy, Mr Swantee argues

4G will allow them to do this faster and enable the use of a wider range of applications that will stimulate more efficient ways of working, such as allowing people to work remotely and exploit cloud services via their mobile devices.

The benefits of 4G to the economy are also significant. Recent research into the potential of 4G in the UK economy by Capital Economics estimates that the UK's adoption of the new technology could unlock £5.5bn of direct private investment.

This research also found 4G would support 125,000 jobs and ultimately provide a 0.5% boost to GDP.

Bear in mind that those forecasts are for a developed economy with a more advanced infrastructure than many other nations. The economic benefits that 4G will bring to developing nations will be just as great.

The pace at which countries are rolling out 4G varies widely as it requires both the availability of licensed airwaves - also called spectrum - from the government, and considerable private investment in infrastructure.

Here in the UK the auction of new spectrum licensed for 4G use has been delayed for several years and is now expected to start at the end of this year, a full four years behind the first European deployment in Sweden. The UK's communications regulator, Ofcom, this week approved the use of spectrum currently used for 2G and 3G services, for 4G.

The green light on this means that the country will see its first 4G services by the end of the year.

The UK's sluggishness to date goes against the grain for a country that pioneered the first private licences for alternative mobile operators in Europe and has the highest levels of smartphone penetration and mobile commerce in the region.

With the world still in the grip of major economic uncertainties, governments and national telecoms operators should be doing all they can to help encourage growth and investment.

The introduction of 4G services will play a large part in stimulating both, creating a 21st Century digital infrastructure to serve consumers, businesses and the economy for the future. 4G is the next step in the evolution of mobile network technology.

It is built specifically to handle mobile internet and data more efficiently, allowing faster and more reliable mobile connectivity in a world where data usage is increasing 250% year on year.

Olaf Swantee is the chief executive of Everything Everywhere, a mobile network created by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile in 2010. In the UK, Everything Everywhere is one of several mobile networks bidding for bandwidth in an upcoming auction led by communications regulator Ofcom. More information about the auction can be read here.

On 21 August, Everything Everywhere was granted permission to use its existing bandwidth to launch 4G services in the UK.