4G, the much-anticipated successor of 3G and the next generation of mobile phone communication standards, has arrived in the UK, parts of Europe, America, Asia, Australia and a handful of African countries. Its Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology has increased the capacity and speed of downloads and has been hailed as the Holy Grail for smartphone users who need vast amounts of data on the move. And quickly. But when all is said and downloaded, is the cost of lightning speed streaming justifiable just yet?
The launch of 4G in the UK last month was met with much hype and high expectations. For those living in big cities, some of these expectations will have been met, at a price of £36 a month – for starters. That’s a significantly higher price than the average mobile user would currently be used to shelling out and of course the price increases with increased bandwidth requirements. It may seem a small price to pay for download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second but step out of the (as yet) limited coverage areas and you’re back to the old 3G network that will continue to underpin the patchy new service. This is a big consideration if you travel because your precious 4G pennies will go to waste when you’re not in catchment areas.
So who’s gone 4G?
In a bid to keep up with global mobile network developments, Liberia, Tanzania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Namibia and Angola have become 4G capable, with Kenya hot on their heels. South Africa has chosen to wait this round out and continue to offer just the existing 3G, for now. This could be a wise choice considering how long the full roll-out of the service is expected to take, even in more developed countries like Britain. According to thetelegraph.co.uk, ” blanketing the country in 4G will take years. Mast upgrades are ongoing and focused on cities where the return on investment is likely to be highest: there will be “islands” of 4G dotting Britain at first.” The 2G and 3G networks will not be dismantled while the upgrade gets going and it won’t be until at least 2015 when the entire country is on 4G. The new network operates on an entirely different frequency with different radio microchips required, so manufacturers will also take it slowly with hardware roll-outs, although the heavy hitters already have 4G devices on offer.
At ten times the current 3G network speed, 4G will one day be an amazing upgrade for all, until then, tech-forward, data-guzzling consumers can enjoy the service in selected areas in the LTE-pioneering countries, at exorbitant prices. If you’re not on board yet, there’s really no rush or reason to feel left behind. However, countries that haven’t made any moves towards 4G may want to make a start, it could take a while.