I had the pleasure of being part of a 4G panel at Interop last week, moderated by Sue Marek at Fierce. It was well attended by enterprise IT professionals interested in knowing why the market is making such a big fuss about 4G.
Based on questions we received from the audience, it’s evident that businesses aren’t quite sure what to think about 4G, much less how to leverage it. So what does 4G offer the enterprise? Let’s take a look at what enterprises want to know:
Why does an enterprise need 4G?
Businesses today need to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently, which is what 4G enables. 4G represents the future of wireless technology, allowing business to extend Internet access beyond a fixed location. Streaming video, super-fast downloads, turbo-charged web browsing and a variety of enhanced business applications are just a few reasons enterprises will adopt 4G.
Sprint 4G offers up to 10 times faster download speeds than current 3G networks, allowing enterprises to more quickly access information such as high-definition files and full-length videos, in addition to supporting bandwidth-intensive applications such as live video surveillance.
As more and more employees become mobile, enterprises will have to offer fast, efficient, and reliable network connections if they hope to remain competitive and deliver constant connectivity and real-time access to corporate data. The increased bandwidth of 4G also enables remote access to richer applications, previously limited to wireline services.
What are the benefits for an enterprise?
Because 4G offers greater bandwidth and speed (at a lower cost than other technologies), enterprises can use it for advanced applications virtually from anywhere, enhancing productivity and giving them greater flexibility to conduct business.
For example, in the healthcare industry, providers can support virtual office visits, X-ray image transmission, virtual collaboration, and other on-demand applications, from almost anywhere. Applications such as these make better use of a provider’s time and resources, resulting in lower cost and better care and service. In other industries, 4G applications can include mobile work, branch office connectivity, temporary offices, retail kiosks, mobile command centers, video delivery and distribution, security, monitoring and surveillance, distance learning and education, and network backup and redundancy.
Will my 3G coverage get better with 4G?
The 4G network operates at different frequencies than the 3G network, so in that respect the 3G network and coverage are unaffected. However, on the Sprint 4G network, which is currently operational in 30 markets, you can use dual-mode devices, such as the Sierra Wireless Overdrive for data applications, or the HTC EVO phone for mobile Internet, texting, and voice. These devices seamlessly transition between the two networks, leveraging the 4G network first and the 3G network when traveling outside a 4G market.
Is 4G good enough to be a T1 alternative?
Definitely. In almost every instance, a T1 has less capacity than a 4G wireless connection. Replacing T1 lines with 4G appeals to large and medium-sized businesses, especially those frustrated with a lack of competition among local access providers, which has kept prices high. 4G is also a great solution for backup and redundancy because of its proven high availability and quality of service.
What is your perspective of WiMAX versus LTE?
Debates about who will prevail seem to follow most every new technology introduction. In the wireless industry, it isn’t uncommon to have multiple technology standards and platforms. For example, Sprint operates a CDMA network while competitors have GSM networks. In the end the technology platform is secondary to the benefits, applications, and services it delivers.
What WiMAX and LTE have in common is that they are both 4G technologies designed to enhance mobile data and both are IP-based. The main differences between the two are in their network design and engineering.
WiMAX offers a clear advantage today since it is the only commercially available 4G technology on the market. In the U.S., it is available in 30 markets, and by year end will reach more than 120 million people. Globally, WiMAX is operational in 148 countries, with more than 568 network deployments. If your business has a need for high-speed wireless access now, WiMAX will deliver.
What is Sprint’s pricing strategy?
At this time, Sprint offers a simplified 3G/4G data plan starting at $59.99 a month. Pricing for the HTC Evo will be announced when the phone is made commercially available to the public this year.
Are there spectrum advantages to 4G?
Broadband wireless will consume significant amounts of spectrum in the future based on projected usage and demand, according to analysts such as Forrester Research and others. Sprint is prepared to handle this demand, allocating an average of 120 MHz per city across the country at 2.5 GHz, far more than any other wireless carrier in the U.S. Without sufficient spectrum, carriers cannot adapt to large increases in wireless data usage patterns. I will address issues related to spectrum and other aspects of broadband wireless in a future blog, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can get answers to other 4G-related questions here.