The first part of this blog series began our look into 4G next generation mobile data rollout and some of the key benefits that LTE offers.
However, while in the UK we wait for parts of the spectrum to be freed up through the digital switchover and then bands auctioned off to the mobile providers, several other significant hurdles remain to the widespread adoption of this technology globally.
Some of these challenges are as follows:
- Not only will operators have to pay for the spectrum that is being auctioned off, but many governments are enforcing certain guarantees regarding coverage and availability. In the UK these are still being ironed out, but the general idea seems to be that at least two operators will have to provide >98 per cent coverage across the UK as part of the spectrum allocation contracts.
- Implementing LTE also requires significant hardware upgrades to the cell towers, not to mention the network backhaul infrastructure that will need to be enhanced to cope with the inevitable increase in data traffic.
- As LTE networks start to become available, so mobile device manufacturers will start having to provide handsets, dongles and other equipment to utilise it – and consumers will have to be educated on the benefits of this technology and encouraged to buy it, either as an upgrade or an outright new purchase.
- Mobile developers will also start developing applications and services that make the most of the benefits that LTE brings. The promise of faster, more reliable and wide spread connectivity can allow fundamental step-changes in location-based services, mobile commerce and marketing, remote access, cloud-based applications, media streaming and social networking – to name but a few.
- As well as the impact on infrastructure, another technical change will be the switch to digital only voice. Current mobile platforms still separate voice as an analogue transmission and data as a digital one. LTE is digital only, so all voice calls will be done as VoIP connections (much the same as if you use Skype rather the normal phone function). While this won’t have direct impact on users (who almost certainly won’t know any differently), this will impact those who provide voice services, including unified communications, security, recording and so on.
All of this has the potential to deliver a significant impact for many organisations, from different perspectives. The direct impact is on those companies that operate in the telecoms industry and will need to adapt accordingly, but even those outside of this will be affected through the changing way we work and the acceleration of the consumerisation of IT that this could bring.
It is clear that 4G will be able to provide a landscape that offers a host of opportunities to consumers and businesses alike. There are some challenges that need to be addressed, but these are not dissimilar to the challenges that came about when 3G was being introduced, and are far from insurmountable.
If the UK is to look for a silver lining to the cloud of being laggards in the rollout of 4G, it is that we can watch and learn from the inevitable hiccups that beset the introduction of any new technology.