4G: How Fast? How Cheap? How Accessible? How Useful? How Soon?

Although LTE delivers a unified global standard, it has so far been deployed across 40 different frequencies, reports IHS, resulting in a ‘complex’ situation for equipment and component suppliers.

Nonetheless, IHS expects that LTE's greater capabilities are a 'force multiplier' for smartphone innovation.

That expectation sits oddly alongside the apparent market trend to deploying lower cost smartphones.

Nokia is targeting low-cost smartphones, Intel is too, Amazon is supposed to be bringing out a $100-200 smartphone in the Spring, entrepreneurs like Ruslan Kogan of Oz are targeting low-cost smartphones.

IHS is expecting a billion LTE subscribers by 2016 - up from 100 million in 2012, but this will surely depend on the price charged by operators to access LTE and whether it actually delivers superior speeds in enough locations.

4G is currently very limited here, the price for EE's unlimited 4G data package is £56 a month, service is only available in 16 towns with another 17 to join by the end of March.

And even where there is 4G coverage it is being used to relieve current congestion rather than substantially increase speeds to the user.

So how long will it be before 4G service is ubiquitous enough, fast enough and cheap enough to be worth having?

Twelve years after the 3G auction why do I still get a frisson of pleasure when the 3G icon comes up on my phone rather than the usual GPRS icon?

Why am I looking forward to the Amazon smartphone?

Am I normal? Or cheap?



  1. Mr Cynical, David
    Yes, area diminishes with traffic – and your use diminishes faster as you share it with more people.
    Not really a conspiracy: “ye canna change the lsws of physics”
    The flip side, there is no point in putting one basestation for PR purposes: it costs acertain amount to connect a city, so if you do it you might as well do it properly; plus people will see they do not get that icon and complain.
    That is why EE say “we have 27 cities” rather than “we are absolutley everywhere”

  2. No I didn’t know that, Mr C, but it explains a lot. Thanks. Good point about Southampton. IMHO 4G will be a marketing exercise for operators and phone manufacturers for the foreseeable future with little discernible advantage for poor old Joe Soap (or Joe Sucker as the network operators see him).

  3. Yes I do get excited when I see a 3G icon, it does not happen very often and when it does it only seems to last a couple of minutes before it drops to a lower icon.
    Did you know that the radius of a 3G mast pattern diminishes with traffic?
    I would also like to see what is meant by 3G coverage in a town explained, does that mean one transmitter in Southampton gives EE the right to say Southampton has 4G?
    letters on a postcard please………….

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