It’s more than two years after the first 4G networks were rolled out in the UK, and how are they are being used? Mainly for uploading selfies and downloading video streams, according to the leading network operator EE.
Last week’s statement from the company reports that the amount of data downloaded through 4G increased sixfold last year, but the traffic was driven largely by people using social networks or streaming services such as BBC iPlayer and YouTube. It’s consumers using it for entertainment who are feeding the growth.
EE highlights that the busiest spot in the country is Tech City in East London; but that’s inevitable given the high concentration of tech start businesses in the area, and I would bet a sizeable chunk of that data is down to personal use by the people working there. It suggests that business as a whole isn’t yet racing to take up 4G.
It does have obvious advantages; faster, stronger connections that extend further than 3G from hotspots open up a lot of possibilities for companies to deliver services and manage their own operations online. But how many have so far identified clear benefits for themselves? How many feel that 3G does the job perfectly well for checking emails and occasionally downloading an application? How many still feel that any major downloads are best confined to landlines and office networks? Plenty might like the look of 4G but are in no hurry to take it up.
But things won’t stay that way indefinitely. Businesses in rural areas with no fibre broadband and weak 3G coverage have a much stronger incentive to pick up 4G, and as they prove its worth they will provide examples for others to follow. And as more people – that includes business owners and employees – get used to using 4G for their amusement their expectations around downloading data in the workplace are going to become more demanding. Give it some time and more business owners will see 4G as essential rather than a ‘nice to have’.
Once they have it, that’s when their minds will really open up to what it can do for their bottom line.