Today new operators offer 4G in the UK – and O2’s Derek McManus is pretty excited about it
As of 29th August, three of the UK’s largest mobile operators will all be offering 4G to their customers. For consumers, businesses and public sector organisations alike, this date marks the next step in the UK’s digital revolution and, for the economy as a whole, the opportunity to build on the sustained growth that we’ve seen in the first two quarters of this year. The key now is to ensure that we as a nation are ‘4G ready’ to make the most of this once-in-a-decade investment in our country’s infrastructure.
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, 4G will ring in positive change across the board; from the multi-national corporation with thousands of employees to the humble household. There really are benefits for everyone.
A flexible workforce
For business, 4G will be invaluable in creating a truly flexible workforce. With its speed five times faster than 3G, we’ll be able to do so much more with our technology. Large files can be downloaded and sent whilst 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 at a time when it’s needed most.
In the retail sector, the boom of m-commerce is only set to continue underpinned by 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 offerings and experiences for customers.
Many of us already research products on our mobiles whilst in a shop, whether that’s getting more information or comparing prices. The improved indoor coverage that will accompany the rollout of 4G means customers will increasingly use their mobile phones to support their in-store experience, so the advice for retailers is to ensure they are embracing this multi-channel approach when deciding how to market their products and engage customers in-store.
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 to roads, shops or houses caused by flooding.
4G fights floods and protects firemen
For emergency services, real-time video streaming from incident locations will allow for better remote management and monitoring from control rooms. A fireman will be able to 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.
In America, developers have already unveiled a 4G-powered app for the police that will work with Google Glass allowing them to bring up live feeds from security cameras and criminal records as they pursue suspects.
The key point to take away from these examples is that 4G is not about the technology itself. It’s about the possibilities the technology creates and how these can provide a catalyst for significant corporate and social change. But to truly propel Digital Britain forward, we as a nation must become more digitally confident. How quickly we integrate 4G into our everyday lives will be an indicator of our success, measured by a sustained period of economic growth and driven by digital innovation.
Derek McManus is chief operating officer at O2
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