Will 4G broadband speeds meet expectations?

Mobile communications have become such a key part of UK life that we crave ever more powerful networks, speeds and connectivity. It wasn’t so long ago that we were promised that 3G would change our lives. Unimpressed by that, it’s understandable if considerable scepticism surrounds 4G, the next great leap into the ether.

Then promises made by 4G focus on ultra-broadband access for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices, with implications for improved gaming, HD and 3D television and all the bright new techno-toys that Apple (and/or Samsung) are going to invent in the next few years.

British pessimism might be rooted in experience of 3G where the speeds claimed could fluctuate considerably according to variables such as location and weather. The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones has shown that the 4G signals from network operator Everything Everywhere (EE) in the 11 major cities where it has launched are similarly unpredictable.

EE claim typical speeds of between 8 to 12 Mbps, a deliberately modest assessment of what 4G can provide. The provider is taking into account the negative feedback that greeted 3G’s problems. The figure is not particularly impressive, but Andrew Ferguson, the editor of the Thinkbroadband information website, points out that EE now have to be cautious about making bold claims for their service.

"EE is actually understating what 4G is capable of in ideal conditions," Ferguson said. "As such, it is attempting to abide by new advertising rules that have come into effect for mobile broadband services, and will require all mobile operators to advertise a speed that people can actually get, rather than the theoretical speed of a device. As has happened with fixed broadband advertising, this has led to people thinking that providers are slowing down their services, when all they are doing is basing their advertising on measured real world speeds rather than laboratory tests."

In short, it amounts to saying: don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.

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