What you need to know about 4G

What is 4G?

At the moment most smart phones use 3G to access data, including the internet, 4G is simply the next step (the fourth generation) of data use, making downloading data much faster.

The plan had been to sell off spare capacity on the analogue range when television completed the digital switch-over next year. Mobile networks would then have had the opportunity to bid for the space previously used by TV channels for 4G.

However Orange and T-Mobile's joint venture, Everything Everywhere, has applied for a licence from regulator Ofcom to use spare capacity it already has from voice calls to provide a 4G service much sooner. Ofcom has approved the application and 4G will now be available in the UK much sooner than expected.

How fast is it?

There are claims that 4G could offer speeds of 20Mb per second, faster than many current home broadband connections (but not as fast as fibre optic broadband).

Everything Everywhere claim that the speeds would mean downloading an entire album of music in under a minute, and a feature film in ten, the company claims that 4G is up to 20 times faster than the current 3G.

Will I need a new phone?

Yes, to access the 4G network you would need a 4G enabled phone. Some phones that could be 4G enabled are Nokia’s Lumia 920, and the expected Apple iPhone 5.

File photo of a mobile as 4G looks to launch in UK
File photo of a mobile as 4G looks to launch in UK Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Will it cost more?

Everything Everywhere have not confirmed the details of the plans yet, but with an open market and such speeds customers could expect to pay more at least in the short term.

What will it mean for businesses?

Everything Everywhere said:

Research by Capital Economics, commissioned by Everything Everywhere, found that 4G could unlock £5.5 billion of direct private investment into the UK and create or safeguard 125,000 jobs over the next 3 years.

The research also found that the roll-out of a 4G network could provide Britain with a 0.5% GDP per year once fully adopted, and provide access to mobile superfast broadband to at least 10 million people who won’t be able to get fixed line superfast broadband by end of the decade.

What other countries have 4G?

The UK is lagging behind a lot of the world with more than 40 countries already making use of 4G. Other countries already with 4G include:

  • Angola
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Uruguay
  • USA

Everything Everywhere has a map of other countries that already have 4G available.