What is 4G and what does it mean for your next event

You’ve
just got your head round 3G and suddenly everyone is talking about 4G.
Kevin Bacon keeps appearing on the TV talking too fast and being too
entertaining for you to figure out what he’s actually on about.

What
is 4G and what does it mean for your next event? How much faster is it?
Does it make any difference? And most importantly, what do you need to
know about it to avoid getting caught out, from an events perspective?

Here’s our quick guide to help you make sense of 4G:

What is it?

4G
is very simply the “4th generation” in mobile phone communication
standards. It’s shinier and faster than 3G however, whilst the various
providers have made great progress in rolling it out over the UK,
coverage is only about 60 per cent on EE, and less on Vodafone and O2,
coverage is generally based in and around the big cities, so if you’re a
rural dweller you may find your 4G dropping to 3G pretty frequently.

How much faster is it?

How
much faster 4G is will depend on a number of factors. The marketing
hype suggests speeds of up to 10 times faster, but in general terms and in
practice 4G is likely to be on average 5 times faster than 3G. 

So you
should see speeds of around 20Mb down and about 10Mb up. You’re most
likely to notice this speed increase for heavier-duty activity like
streaming video or posting images to Facebook. The strength of
connection, in cities at least, is also likely to be stronger than 3G,
for example inside buildings where 3G might currently struggle to cope
with concrete and metal, 4G will likely cope better.

What are the implications for my next event?

In
theory the speed of 4G may at times be quicker than a WiFi connection
and therefore some event visitors or exhibitors will doubtless want to
set their phone to create a WiFi hub and connect their devices through
it. There’s several problems with this, the potential cost of data,
particularly if you are powering multiple devices is likely to be pretty
prohibitive and may contravene your fair usage policy. Secondly, there
is also the wider impact of lots of individual networks all competing
for limited channel space and causing interference with the venue
network – with many venues implementing a clean air policy, or
controlling which channels are allowed for general use, you may be asked
to turn your hotspot off. Thirdly, it’s a phone. Phone’s ring. When
that happens, you actually drop down to 3G coverage since 4G can’t
handle calls and data at the same time. As a phone, it also has the
potential to drop in and out depending on how busy the networks are
which could cause frustration, and whilst 4G is thought to have stronger
signals indoors than 3G this may not always be the case, particularly
in hotel ballrooms which are often underground, for example.

The
other option for 4G is to use a ‘MiFi’, a small wireless router that has
a 4G sim card, this prevents the issue of your phone ringing, and you
can connect around five to 10 devices to them, but again you would need to
check that this doesn’t contravene a venue or events internet policies.

There
is a potential opportunity for 4G to serve as a backup to a hardwired
internet connection, dependent on coverage, but I think we have a way to
go before you would want to use one as your primary connection.

The
main obstacle to using them for now is the cap on Data usage, if for
example you have a 20Gb allowance this is only five HD films, or 10
Standard definition ones, streaming from YouTube, or iPlayer,
especially with multiple users, would soon use it up.

One major
plus for small events is that your 4G internet connection is truly
mobile, so you can take it with you from event to event, certainly when
coverage starts to include rural areas this could become a viable option
to trying to get a hardwired connection booked for a field.

Any comments? Email pcolston@mashmedia.net

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Author

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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