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What is 4G? | BT Business

What is 4G?

4G - the fourth generation of mobile phone technology - is the successor to 2G and 3G. Want to know more about what it means, how it works, and its benefits for business? Read on.

What's the difference between 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G?

So, what is 4G? Standing for 'fourth generation communications system', it's the current standard for mobile internet technology. The previous versions are as follows:

  • 1G: This is the very first version of the mobile phone, developed in the 1980s. It was an analogue technology, and the maximum speed was around 2.4 Kbps.

  • 2G: Launched in the 1990s, the second generation allowed people to make calls and send texts, including data services like MMS, SMS and picture messages.

  • 3G: The third generation, introduced late in the 1990s, enabled people to use their cell phone for more data-demanding tasks like surfing the net and video calling.

4G can support a much greater number of users than 3G, and has been adopted by every major UK operator, including O2, EE, and Vodafone. Until the release of 5G (which is expected to begin its roll-out in 2020), it's the most advanced mobile communications system available.

4G addresses two of the major issues which affected the 3G platform: network congestion and speed. Allowing people to do most things that they can do on their home wi-fi network, but on their phone, you can make use of services which demand more capacity, including social networking, video streaming, music streaming, calls (enabled devices) and mapping. It also features reduced latency, meaning that it responds to user demands more quickly. If you want to use Google Maps to get around town, hold a video conference on Skype or browse YouTube while you're on the go, you'll need 4G.

How does 4G work?

Using high-speed upload and download packets, 4G provides customers with access to broadband-style speeds from their mobile device, tablet or laptop. It is basically a radio system, with masts broadcasting 4G signals across the country. Your 4G-enabled device communicates to the base station (mast) which then relays data from the internet to your device, and vice versa.

How fast is 4G?

There are two main types of 4G, each of which offers a different speed:

  • 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution): offers a typical download speed of 20Mbps and a theoretical download speed of 150Mbps. This would allow you to download a 500MB file in under 4 minutes.

  • 4G LTE-Advanced: offers a typical download speed of 42Mbps and a theoretical download speed of 300Mbps. This would allow you to download a 500MB file in just under 2 minutes.

As a rule, 4G is about 3 times as fast as 3G. However, it's worth remembering that the speed of 4G varies in different areas of the country. 4G is usually fastest in highly populated areas, so remote, rural areas may not experience the highest speed that 4G has to offer. In addition, speed will vary from provider to provider.

What are the benefits of 4G for business?

4G has a range of extensive benefits for enterprise. Here's five 4G business broadband benefits:

  1. Businesses based in rural areas are often plagued with slow broadband, which can affect productivity as well as your ability to deliver services. 4G could be an effective stopgap for businesses located in areas which are still waiting for high-speed broadband.

  2. Speed and dependability are two of the key benefits of 4G. It allows for greater traffic throughout (avoiding congestion from too many users) and is much more reliable than 3G. By utilising 4G, businesses can enjoy a reliable, predictable means of communicating.

  3. The rise of 4G allows businesses to operate in a much more flexible way. Remote working has become a much more realistic prospect due to the advent of mobile technology, while businesses are now able to adapt to change by setting up a totally connected office within just a few hours. You can provide better customer service by accessing their information from any location, and there are also benefits for damage recovery, with any site able to transform into a DR (damage recovery) location as required.

  4. 4G prices are much more affordable. Not only this, but the fact that 4G enables flexible working has the potential to reduce operational costs. 4G makes it easier to have a mobile workforce, send documents digitally, and transfer data to employees in any location, all of which has the potential to cut costs for your business.

  5. Finally, 4G can have a beneficial effect for your productivity. If you need to send a document, organise a conference call, or send instructions to employees who are out in the field, 4G is a great way to ensure that gets done as quickly as possible, avoiding downtime and keeping your business productive throughout the working day.

If you're interested in 4G, consider a SIM-only plan (including 4G).

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