Understanding the Benefits of 4G/LTE
Mobile operators have been touting the benefits of 4G/LTE for some time. As more workers operate from remote sites and BYOD grows within the enterprise, it is important for all of us to understand that the benefits of 4G/LTE extend beyond speed.
Faster Does Matter
Most of the service providers advertise and market LTE, or 4G as it’s often called, exclusively around the benefits of increased speed alone, playing to the lowest common denominator in the consumer mind. If 3G was faster than 2G, then 4G must be faster than 3G, or something like that, because 4 is higher than 3. Rocket science. It is true that 4G networks can be around 10x faster than the 3G networks they are replacing, so speed is a real benefit of 4G. But focusing exclusively on speed misses some of the more subtle, but more important transitions.
The Shift to IP
Perhaps a bigger change 4G brings is the shift to an all IP (internet protocol) based network. Whereas previous versions of cellular networks were all circuit switched, LTE is all IP. This represents a huge shift in the architecture of mobile networks, and is the foundation for understanding why the benefits of 4G are much more than mere speed. Perhaps the best analogy I have heard is that 3G is like using a dial-up modem and LTE is like having home broadband.
Benefits Beyond Speed
Better audio quality – Circuit-switched networks only offer narrowband communications, which is why older phones sound like tin cans when you talk on them. With 4G, service providers can offer wideband audio services, which, when compared to the older services, sound far, far better. Once customers experience the difference in audio quality they will never want to go back to narrowband again.
Communication beyond voice – With an IP based network, true unified communications and collaboration become possible. Collaboration tools on mobile devices and things like presence, chat, and web meetings become common features that are part of the communications ecosystem. If your co-worker is busy, you can wait until they are off of a call. Video, likewise becomes more important, so expect to see more video meetings and conferences.
Network administration – An IP network is much less expensive for the service provider to run on a day to day basis compared to legacy networks. With circuit switching, once a call is established, the circuit stays in place whether someone is talking or not. IP networks are far more dynamic and share resources more efficiently.