The rate of evolution in mobile connectivity has been nothing short of staggering. The designer of the first mobile phone was inspired by the 1960s TV series Star Trek, in which the crew of the Starship Enterprise use their communicators to talk over incredible distances.
In 1982, the world’s first mobile phone -- Nokia's Mobira Senator -- was released to the public, followed quickly by Motorola’s DynaTAC (made famous by Gordon Gekko).
Fast-forward to 1999, and Nokia's 7110 was the first cell phone to incorporate Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), giving users a painfully stripped-down version of the Web.
Across the GSM network, users could expect speeds of less than 9.6kbps -- or 0.0094Mbps. For context, it would have taken 82 days to download a season of Game of Thrones at this rate.
A decade and a half later and mobility has taken on an entirely new meaning. Mobile devices are no longer phones, but full-blown computers with more processing power than our desktops had just a few short years ago.
Underpinning this shift to a mobile-first world has been the equally rapid evolution of the cellular network. The fourth generation (4G LTE) cellular network offers average download speeds of 15Mbps and theoretical speeds of 300Mbps. To download the same season of Game of Thrones at this speed, it would take just shy of four minutes.
When it comes to data connectivity, the cellular network no longer plays second fiddle to fixed-line networks. Make no mistake -- the LTE network is a game changer for enterprise mobility.
What Makes 4G So Special?
With the ability to provide more data at a faster rate to employees and consumers, the benefits of a robust celluar network are clear.
"3G, and even 2G, mobile networks have provided countless businesses with new ways of remotely managing and monitoring their distributed estates," said Sacha Kakad, managing director of wireless communications specialist Westbase Technology.
"But LTE opens up entirely new possibilities."
The higher bandwidth, lower latency, improved spectrum efficiency, and greater reach and penetration of 4G enable a level of mobility not previously possible.
Bandwidth, latency, and range were always the most significant inhibitors of 3G. Limited by download and upload speeds and slow response times, applications were stripped down to provide essential functionality.
And because 3G is generally only licensed in the higher frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, it is infamously patchy, meaning that even when it performs optimally, the signal might not penetrate buildings.
With performance similar to that of a fixed-line network -- and in many cases surpassing it -- 4G opens the floodgates in terms of feature-rich applications. From high-definition video conferencing to web-based CRMs, the wireless network no longer serves as a bottleneck to the mobile workforce.
Moreover, the spectrum allocated to 4G contains a number of lower frequency bands. The net result is that 4G has a much broader range compared to previous generations and is able to penetrate buildings, eliminating so-called not-spots.
"We're seeing transport customers now using 4G networks to remotely access and retrieve CCTV footage; to access their central databases and update them while they're on the move; and to deliver powerful Wi-Fi hotspots that enable a high number of users to connect at the same time," said Kakad.
"In all other industries too, 4G is delivering instant connectivity that can power any application. Whether it is a concessionary in a retail store which needs to set up its own separate network to power applications such as point of sale, or a new construction site which needs to access its central databases and applications from day one of the project build, the use of 4G is highly flexible and scalable."
A Failover Option
With all of this in mind, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make the leap from using LTE as a mobility tool to harnessing it as a failover option. Adding wired redundancy to dozens or hundreds of locations is costly and even then, does not guarantee business continuity. 4G LTE provides a robust failover alternative.
"The combination of the extended capabilities of 4G, compared to 3G, and the falling cost of data makes cellular a serious contender for primary and failover solutions," said Kakad.
Join Sacha Kakad at Interop London this June to find out how distributed enterprise networks are changing; the benefits of a resilient network; and a cost/benefit analysis of LTE. Find out more about Interop London here.Sean McGrath is a freelance IT writer, researcher, and journalist. He has written for PC Pro, the BBC, and TechWeekEurope, and has produced content for a range of private organizations. Although he holds a first class degree in investigative journalism, his dreams of being a ... View Full Bio