By Derek McManus, COO, O2
14 April 2013: The 4G spectrum auction earlier this year marked another major milestone in the UK’s journey towards a new generation of mobile technology.
By the end of 2013, all of the major mobile network operators will be offering 4G services and with that comes the potential for businesses to transform the way they work and serve their customers. We’re now calling on organisations across all sectors to take advantage of the opportunity that 4G will create, so that together we can make Britain truly digital.
But while 4G will indeed allow for faster data speeds and a more seamless mobile experience with greater network coverage, it provides the chance to go beyond what has already been offered in the market. The possibilities that this technology brings are endless, but the opportunity now rests with businesses, big and small, to have a plan to be “4G ready” to ensure that they maximise the potential gains when the nationwide rollout takes place later this year.
Whether it’s developing new products and services to make consumers’ lives easier, or maximising the benefits for a business through new ways of working or the provision of more efficient systems, the opportunities are greater than ever before.
In order for businesses to thrive in these economically difficult times, they must take advantage of everything that is available in the sphere of digital technology. As 4G becomes a nationwide reality, businesses that are quick to incorporate the technology into their ways of working will have the chance to make a vital jump ahead of their competitors.
From a logistical perspective, 4G will be invaluable in creating a truly flexible workforce. With its speed five times faster than 3G, large files can be downloaded and sent while on the move, video conferencing can take place almost anywhere, and real-time data can be sent from the point of source, all without the need for an office, a desk or even a computer. Even for smaller businesses, where time and resource can often be scarce, 4G offers new ways to improve both efficiency and productivity.
For example, a small interior design company could save time, and also provide a better service, by being able to download and review plans for a project while on site with their client. In days gone by, plans would be discussed, notes would be taken, and changes made back at the office with hours or even days going by before the client could see an updated version.
In the retail sector, the boom of “m-commerce” is only set to continue under 4G. More users will be shopping on their mobile devices than ever before, presenting a huge opportunity for retailers to strengthen their mobile shopping experience and create richer offers and experiences for customers.
Beyond retail, the effects of 4G on our everyday lives will be felt across a huge variety of industries and sectors. Even for those without a 4G phone, this technology has the potential to improve many services that keep Britain moving.
This could be a water company using 4G sensors to monitor its infrastructure of pipes. Using the sensors, leaks could be easily located and this information automatically sent via 4G to the nearest repair team vehicle in a matter of seconds. It’ll therefore be possible to make repairs more quickly, minimising potential disruption caused by flooding.
For emergency services, real-time video streaming from incident locations will allow for better remote management and monitoring from control rooms. A fireman could enter a burning building in the knowledge that his movements are being watched live by a support team, who can not only make sure he’s safe but also assess the severity of the fire and respond accordingly by sending the appropriate amount of additional resource. This is just one way that 4G technology could help keep people safe and potentially save lives.
These positive effects will also be felt in the healthcare sector. The greater coverage and data capacity delivered by 4G will improve remote monitoring of data retrieved from devices such as pacemakers, so problems can be detected more quickly and on-call doctors notified instantly. On arriving at a patient’s location, a doctor could view and update medical records instantly on a portable tablet device, allowing for more accurate and efficient diagnosis and treatment.
These are just a snapshot of the types of products and services that 4G technology has the potential to greatly improve, and if we look to the future it’s hard to imagine what the possible innovations will be. Businesses must start thinking now about how 4G can enhance the way they operate, whether it’s the way they sell, advertise, serve their customers or connect with their employees.
It could be argued that we are at a time where technological capability has overtaken creativity and innovation, but if we all get under the skin of the technology early and start to test its potential then we can capitalise on 4G and deliver services which will truly improve people’s lives. What we do know is that the real benefits of this technology are still to come and the opportunity is there for businesses to lead the way.
Now that this landmark investment has been made for 4G to become a nationwide reality, we want all organisations across all sectors to ensure the true value of this technology is realised, so that together we can make Britain truly digital.