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4G, the new generation in mobile communication, is being further and further established in Belgium. But what does this new technology mean for you? We discuss this with two of Europe’s most specialised experts: Declan Lonergan, Vice President at the Yankee Group, and Pascal Ancian, Senior Vice President of Orange Business Services. “With 4G, companies and consumers have the same user-experience as with fixed connections. Mobile and fixed-line will be the same. It’s history in the making.”
Faster, with higher capacity and a quicker response time. In a few words, these are the technical benefits of 4G when compared with previous generations of mobile data communication. “4G offers ten times more capacity than 3G. The response time is six times faster. As such, 4G offers a significant improvement for companies and consumers,” says Pascal Ancian from Orange Business Services. “We are responding to the growing demand for mobile data communication. We have noticed that over the last few years, the total amount of mobile data communication has doubled on an annual basis.”
For the business user, what are the benefits of 4G over 3G? What can be done now that never used to be possible?
Pascal Ancian: “Think about collaborative applications for web or videoconferencing, for example. They are going to become a reality with 4G. It offers the conditions necessary for having this kind of communication while on the road. With 3G, the conditions were not as good, because the response time was rather long and the image would freeze. Besides video, 4G is also better attuned to the use of Cloud applications, where everything is saved in ‘The Cloud’. Recovering 1 gigabyte from the cloud will take about 1 minute with 4G. With 3G, it used to take about 6 minutes.”
Declan Lonergan: “Personally, I think the move from 3G to 4G will not see the arrival of completely new business applications. For a large number of existing applications, the speed will be increased and consequently, the user-experience will improve. Because clients will get the desired information on their screens without any hesitation. This is extremely important for every application that has a video component.”
Are companies or consumers already waiting for 4G?
Declan Lonergan: “With such new technology, it often fails to run as quickly as people expect. This also has its practical reasons. For example, it will take a while before 4G devices are available on a major scale. 4G will breakthrough, but it will be gradual. I notice that today, the most enthusiasm comes from the consumer side. One important factor in this is the trend towards consumerisation: it’s no longer just the IT department that chooses the technology that businesses use. The end-users themselves do this. But 4G is also important for companies, because it makes tele-working possible under all circumstances. It makes it possible to truly mobilise your organisation. 4G is therefore not the only component, but certainly a very important one. For companies, it is one of the most important building blocks in their mobile strategy.”
Pascal Ancian: “We notice that a large number of companies and organisations are actively asking for it. Mobility is currently very much a reality. All companies are asking themselves questions about mobilising their organisations. Some are quick to respond, others less so. The mobile network is central to this transformation. It will see companies switch from desktop computers to mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. Their workplace will be mobile. But at the same time, a flurry of questions about devices and applications, and their security and management are also being raised.”
4G is therefore extremely important for connecting people, but what about machines? Think about the M2M applications on the so-called Internet of Things?
Pascal Ancian: “4G is actually completely IP-based. So, in this sense, it is already a more logical manner for connecting machines or ‘things’. For example, think about satellite navigation for cars. These are M2M applications that don’t need much bandwidth. But there are also others, for both consumers and businesses, where the extra capacity and bandwidth is needed. It’s vital for sending camera images wirelessly and for zooming in on these images.”
Declan Lonergan: “I think that in the short term, M2M is an interesting domain, where there is still a lot to happen. For most projects, there is not a great amount of bandwidth required. In many cases with M2M, the cost price also has to be low and as much needs to be saved as possible. At the moment, I don’t see M2M as a critical driving force for 4G.”
How will 4G relate to fixed networks? Will these be replaced?
Declan Lonergan: “I think that fixed lines will always have the advantage when it comes to speed. Although I suspect there will gradually be a sort of replacement of fixed lines with mobile connections. It won’t be to a massive extent. But what was once able to be served by a fixed-line alone, will have a full alternative. It is especially in this light that you need to see this replacement.”
Pascal Ancian: “Today, mobile connections are more and more of a back-up or alternative for fixed-connections. For example, in the case of breakdown, a company will quickly switch to a mobile connection and remain operational. For temporary offices of course, a mobile connection is quickly put into play. In this instance, they are a valuable and worthwhile alternative for fixed connections. But with 4G, companies and consumers have the same user-experience as with their fixed connections. Mobile and fixed will be equivalents. It’s never been the case, any time in history before now.”
4G is a world-wide story. Which countries or regions are front-runners in 4G?
Pascal Ancian: “When it comes to 4G, Asia and the United States are the frontrunners. For a long time, Europe was the leader in 2G and, in a certain sense, also in 3G, but now we need to take a backseat. In terms of the number of 4G users, the United States is certainly the leader with 60 million. This is a little less than 20 per cent of the population. But the ratios in some countries are even greater. In South Korea, 4G penetration has reached 40 per cent, and in Japan around 20 per cent. I think that use of 4G in West Europe will quickly increase and we will soon be out of the back seat.”
Who is who?
Senior Vice President Mobile at Orange Business Services, which is part of the parent company for Orange Belgium. He is responsible for the French market as well as the international market.
Vice President of the research group Yankee Group and specialised in mobile technology.
What does 4G make possible for your sector?
For every company, the 4G network offers possibilities for communication and collaboration, such as mobile video conferencing in HD quality.
For the health sector
In Londen zijn sommige ziekenwagens al uitgerust met HD-camera’s. Via een 4G-verbinding kunnen dokters in het ziekenhuis zo de situatie inschatten, terwijl de ziekenwagen nog onderweg is.
For the automobile sector
Renault and Orange have joined forces in a research project where 4G applications in vehicles are experimented with.
For the gaming industry
Thanks to 4G, gamers can use special glasses to play against each other anytime and anywhere. This is based on an improved reality, where elements are added to a certain image.