The rest of the world has been enjoying high speed 4G mobile broadband for some time now, but it’s only just shown up here in the UK with the launch of EE in October 2012.
However, there are still some unknown with this new mobile technology. 3G took years to bed in, with the first devices and networks suffering numerous problems. Early adopters may not wait to wait, but before you rush out to buy a new mobile phone or mobile broadband dongle, here’s a few things you should know about the next generation of mobile networks.
Pros and Cons of 4G Mobile Data
Say goodbye to your battery life
The battery life of 4G devices is noticeably lower than other mobile phones; the hardware is just not yet as energy efficient as 3G, which has had years to develop.
That’s bad news if you already find a smartphone is running out of power before the end of a working day, 4G is only going to make things worse.
Switching to a 4G mobile will mean you’ll have to be more aware of carefully managing your usage and efficiency (lowering screen brightness, disabling data when not in use and so on) and perhaps carry a spare battery, if it’s possible to remove the battery at all.
You’ll need to buy new hardware
Did you buy a 4G smartphone before EE showed up? Unfortunately there’s a good chance it won’t work with the new 4G network, or any future providers. Because there are so many different frequencies there’s no guarantee that a device will work with a specific network.
The only exception is the iPhone 5, which was released just before EE launched and does support the right frequencies. However, that particular model will only ever with EE and Three, none of the future UK networks use the same frequencies.
If you want to jump onboard with 4G then you will need to budget for a new phone (and mobile broadband dongle, if required). T-Mobile and Orange customers can take advantage of a subsidised upgrade offer, which saves money, but everyone else will need to hunt around for a reasonable contract deal or stump up the cash for a SIM-free handset.
Coverage is patchy
Although EE is using its existing network infrastructure for 4G, it will still take some time before a significant amount of the country has access to the network. By the end of December 2012, 16 cities will be able to get 4G: London, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Southampton, Liverpool, Hull, Belfast, Nottingham, Newcastle and Derby.
That’s fine if you live in one of those places, but the moment you travel outside the city centre your 4G signal will disappear and be replaced by that reliable old 3G link. And it’s been found that even in the cities which have 4G there’s only a relatively small area which will be able to see it, city centres are okay but travel to the suburbs and it may not be accessible.
4G is expensive
EE has the only 4G network right now and its prices are quite high. The cheapest monthly contracts could get you a free iPhone on other networks, and even worse is the data allowances, which are very low for a network offering high speed downloads. Once other networks launch in 2013 costs should fall as competition is introduced, but right now it’s not the best choice if you’re on a tight budget.
It’s worth noting that 3G networks with other providers have been getting speed boosts lately, particularly Three’s DC-HSDPA upgrades which can now give downloads of over 10Mb, all for a much lower price than 4G.
This post was written by Mollie Goodfellow . She writes on behalf of Broadband Genie, the online comparison site for broadband and smartphone packages.