The future of 4G: When will it be good enough?

Adoption of 4G continues to grow, but barriers to speed and coverage remain

What now?

With three of the four biggest UK networks beginning to catch up to EE's significant head start with 4G, the market has become increasingly competitive.

The union of BT and EE, for example, means it will focus on triple-play and quad-play offerings, while others will join them by targeting newly popular devices such as smartwatches and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The main problem facing the technology is that speeds and coverage cannot compete with the user growth, and the amount of people signing up to use 4G has dramatically impacted the quality of service they then receive.

Networks needs to address this, as well as being more honest about what they are offering to customers in the first place.

Speaking about this discrepancy, Dewnarain said: "The theoretical and perceived speeds are always going to be vastly different.

"As a result, even if EE says it's network can achieve theoretical speeds of 150 Mbps with LTE-Advanced technology, in practice, it's not unusual that customers may only experience speeds of 20-30Mbps at best.

"The actual speed experienced depends on the load on the network (how many people are using a tower at the same time); your position within the cell (whether you are closer to the tower or nearer the edge of the cell); the terrain (reflection, refraction from objects in an urban environment) and interference."

Another big question is how long we'll have to wait for 5G to appear, and whether it will take as long to upgrade 4G as it did 3G.

The rise of the IoT certainly suggests that things will need to progress, and fast.

With businesses becoming increasingly reliant on 4G when out of the office - working remotely and while travelling - speed, availability and reliability are becoming more and more important.

Mobile networks in the UK will have to meet that demand if they are to remain in the race.

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