What will the 4G auction mean for businesses?

What will the 4G auction mean for businesses?

Since Ofcom announced in March 2011 it would auction off the 4G spectrum there has been a great deal of discussion about the technology and what benefits it will bring once it is rolled out across the UK.

The digital crossover underway, which will see analogue signal being switched off in the UK, will create space in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands, which has been earmarked as a space for the 4G network.

According to communications watchdog Ofcom, the spectrum is essential to meet the rapid rise in mobile traffic in the UK, which has been fuelled by the growth of smartphones and mobile broadband data services in recent years.

The organisation had planned to hold an auction to sell off the spectrum, with the major mobile operators all looking to secure a piece of the pie, but the initial date of early 2012 has been put back due to regulatory issues, pushing the auction back to the end of this year.

While these grievances are yet to be completely resolved – some operators are threatening legal action – an auction in late 2012 means 4G services could be ready for the second half of 2013.

The faster the problems are resolved and the auction goes ahead is better for businesses in the UK, after recent figures published by the policy group Open Digital indicate that the delay in the rollout of 4G is costing businesses in Britain over £730 million a year.

It will also level the business playing field as UK firms have been battling against organisations Germany, where 4G services are already available, and France, where a similar auction took place in December.

Businesses looking to take advantage of the 4G networks, when they are eventually launched, should ensure they have equipment that is 4G compatible. As the UK and US are using different frequencies for the technology there are a lot of devices that purport to be 4G-ready, when in fact, they will not be.

For example, there was a great deal of hype surrounding the new iPad, which boasts 4G connectivity, but it will not currently run on the frequencies being allocated by Ofcom in the UK.

Improved reliability and performance will be achieved with the rollout of 4G and will push smartphones into the realm of tablets and laptops, as the current 3G network can at times be problematic and slow.

The main aim for 4G networks is to increase the bandwidth and throughput capabilities so that more customers will feel secure in the knowledge that their smartphones will perform whenever necessary.

A faster, more reliable service ultimately means staff can easily keep on top of work matters during the moments that would previously have been taken up by waiting for things to load on the old 3G network and other minutes of downtime during the day, all of which will boost a business' bottom line due to increased productivity.

Put simply, 4G will improve mobile device users' experience of operating the latest gadgets, as it can improve the range of applications that employees run on their smartphones or tablets, particularly those using high bandwidths.

As well as a smoother service, 4G will make video conferencing a more pleasant experience altogether, which is ideal as more and more businesses look to make use of mobile devices and employees who are happy to work away from the office and outside the constrictions of the traditional nine to five working day.