Global 4G roaming could soon be made possible

Global 4G roaming could soon be made possible

There can be no doubt that 4G has been something of a game-changer for many businesses across the UK, with firms in various industries beginning to take advantage of the benefits of accessing superfast broadband on the move.

The ability to maintain fast connection speeds beyond the office means workers across the UK are able to maintain high levels of productivity, making companies more efficient and, crucially, more profitable.

This is obviously great news for companies that are deciding to keep their operations within the UK, but with the number of business beginning to broaden their international horizons getting smaller in size all the time, it is clear the landscape of enterprise has radically altered in the digital age.

Expansion may be hindered

The increased levels of connectivity have allowed levels of collaboration to soar beyond any physical borders, with tools such as video conferencing, VoIP and cloud computing all allowing for increased flexible working practices

However, while 4G coverage across the UK is increasing all the time, international borders are still proving problematic, with 4G yet to benefit from the same level of international roaming enjoyed by 2G and 3G customers.

Given that 4G has already helped to alter the UK's commercial landscape, it is highly feasible that this situation could lead to many firms being stifled in their bid to expand into other countries and new markets.

It is a problem that has not just been recognised in the UK either, with Australian technology writer Luke Hopewell describing the state of international roaming as "stupidly broken".

In a blog for Gizmodo, he wrote about his negative experiences in trying to get a 4G connection while covering the Computex convention in Taiwan, where he seemed genuinely surprised at the poor level of access to a superfast mobile internet.   

He wrote: "The most frustrating thing is that carriers have been crowing for over a year now that its roaming solutions had been beefed up and fixed. Roaming overseas would now be a breeze for anyone who wanted it, and the days of roaming bill shock were over. Not so."

New technology could change everything

Yet the days of not being able to replicate 4G coverage outside a user's home nation could soon be over, as UK researchers claim to have uncovered a new technique that requires just one channel for two-way communication.

Radio systems used in mobile phones and wireless internet connections use twice as much of the radio spectrum as is necessary.

However, scientists from the University of Bristol claim to have put together the technology needed to cancel out the interference from a transmission, an advancement that would allow a radio device to transmit and receive on the same channel simultaneously.

It could subsequently require just half the spectrum used by the current technology, opening the door for any developments towards 5G mobile, as well improvements to current 3G and 4G services.

Usually, a separate filtering component is needed for each band of frequency, meaning that mobile phones are unable to support every frequency channel around the world.

Devices are still manufactured to different specifications in different countries , meaning that 4G roaming is largely restricted.

Yet researchers claim that by replacing filters with a special duplexer circuit it is possible to create smaller and cheaper devices capable of catering to one single model for the entire world and subsequently enable global roaming on 4G

Leo Laughlin, a PhD student from the University's EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Communications, said: “Until now there has been a fundamental unsolved problem with radio communication.

“Since the radio spectrum is a limited resource and with network operators paying billions of pounds to access the spectrum, solving this problem would bring us one step closer to the faster, cheaper and greener devices of our connected future.”

Vodafone offers temporary solution

While there is certainly a very strong possibility of 4G roaming becoming a future feature of mobile working, there are some measures already in place for those looking to access 4G services abroad.

Vodafone has announced it is to add 22 more countries to its WorldTraveller programme, joining the eight others already covered in the scheme, launched in July 2014.

The latest batch of countries confirmed as being covered in the plan include Anguilla, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The service costs £5 a day on a number of business plans, while the EuroTraveller programme costs £3 per day and has so far been used by over 2.5 million customers.

Arrow Business Communications has a variety of Vodafone plans that will help you to get the most out of 4G.