Archive for August, 2013

To 4G or not to 4G?… Soon it won’t even be a question

Let’s face it – a lot of the shiny new devices around now have been sporting their 4G-ready badges for some time. Now they actually might get the chance to use it!

In the UK, merged network EE (formally Orange & T-Mobile) has been sporting 4G for almost a year. The other big UK networks, O2 and Vodafone, are joining in from 29 August 2013 in London (with O2 adding Leeds and Bradford also). By the end of 2014 it’ll be (almost) everywhere. If they do it right, by then we might have the same attitude to 3G we’ve had towards dial-up internet for the last ten years. They hope we’ll sit around and wonder how we ever managed without 4G in our fast-paced lives. I would be surprised if we didn’t!

But right now, there are still a lot of people wondering what this 4G stuff really is about, and whether it really is required or particularly relevant… Here’s a hint – it is!

4G LTE – The Next Generation: 

You’ll have seen this quite a lot by now – “4G LTE”: It’s the well-used acronym used for what is known as 4th Generation Long Term Evolution. To non-techies out there, that means it’s the “superfast broadband” equivalent for your mobiles, tablets and dongles. It will make doing online with mobile devices a whizzy doddle. It uses the same frequency as your old telly used to before it went digital – and it’s been recycled into the shiny new “Next Gen” of mobile devices; a new era of online interaction with the world.

Currently, 4GEE (running on EE) manages “up to” 60Mbps (megabits per second). To put that in perspective, the average home broadband manages “up to” 16Mbps in a good area, with fibre-optic “superfast” broadband like BT Infinity running “up to” 76Mbps. Technically, 4G is capable of delivering as much as 120Mbps. 3G services generally offer an average of 1.5Mbps – so not only is 4G a radically better service, it’s also even capable of beating the socks off your home wifi too. That’s just win-win.

Basically, this all means that using 4G is going to be really fast. FaceBook Check-In in nanoseconds – here we come!

Racehorses or Ponies?

Our new and shiny mobile devices are currently like hyped up racehorses stuck in a stable box – what they really need is to be allowed to do is run. This is what 4G is going to allow them to do. If you have (or are thinking about buying) one of the new snazzy 4G phones out there, you’ll be missing out on its breakneck online speeds if you ignore this new network opportunity, keeping your shiny new racehorse stuck in its stable. You’ll make it very sad, I’m sure.

But not every shiny new phone has a 4G ready badge, though – and the most surprising behemoth not to carry it is Apple’s latest flagship, iPhone 5. This is the one phone you would have expected to be a racehorse – but no. It’s a slower little 3G pony. Apple’s only racehorses in the 4G steeplechase are iPad 4 [Retina] and iPad Mini – and these thoroughbreds are rearing to go with a new 4G SIM.

The biggest racehorse out there is everyone’s favourite, the Samsung Galaxy S4. The entire S4 family is actually 4G ready, as is the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. Standing tall next to them are the new BlackBerry 10s, HTC One, the Nokia Lumia high-end range, and the Sony Z. Also rearing to go are tablets Sony Xperia Tablet Z, Google Nexus 7 and Galaxy Note 10.1. It won’t be long until there are many, many more, though, have no doubt!

To 4G or not to 4G? 

This new technology is still evolving and it’s still getting better. It’s going to end up being awesome – because we’ll be able to do everything online better and faster. You’re witnessing the start of the latest online revolution. 4G will once again radically change the way we use online services.

Having 4G will mean we can finally do what we always wanted to do with our hi-tech mobile devices: Watch iPlayer, download a new movie, and email large photos, videos or documents all at the same time without it lagging or buffering or failing whilst out and about. The kids can stream CBeebies in the back of the car without moaning every five minutes because it’s freezing. You can download a new film and actually watch it whilst your train is delayed – without having to wait longer for the download than you do for the train…

You get the idea. You can do a lot you couldn’t do now without throwing your phone out the car window in frustration.

Is It worth It?

Within 12 months you probably won’t even need to ask, it will just be the norm. It might not be nationwide and particularly affordable right now – but give it another few months and those prices will start toppling as the network and competition grows.

Like most new tech, the price is always high and usage allowance low at the beginning of its lifespan. For most people, the best advice with new technology is always to stay back and watch it evolve before getting involved.

Those who remember the transition from dial-up Internet to home broadband will recall a similar experience – but this goes to show that a little time and competition quickly lowers company prices and increases usage allowance to turn customers’ heads to their own product. Also, just like the transition from dial-up to broadband, this is the new future of the Internet and we will soon wonder however we managed without it…

Here Comes the Money:

These new 4G price tariffs just might make your eyes water, if you thought paying about £10 for 1GB for your iPad 3G network was a lot… There are “special offers” around to try and incentivise you – but they might only do so if you’re easily pleased:

EE

These guys were the first out there offering 4G and they also offer the best data-allowance options, but you are going to have to be prepared to pay more for it:

Their 24-month contract includes unlimited talk/text with 1GB data and is £32 – but you can have up to 20GB if you’re willing to pay £51 for it.

They all also come with free music streaming add-on with Deezer and free BT Openzone wifi usage. As with all EE tariffs, you also get the 2 for 1 EE Film cinema ticket offer (previously known as “Orange Wednesdays”).

EE also have a broadband-only SIM for tablets, eReaders and dongles on both Pay & Go and Pay Monthly plans from £15.99 for 3GB. This includes free use of BT Openzone wifi and Virgin Media’s Wifi on the Underground (wifi access on the London Underground network), as well as the EE Film 2 for 1 cinema ticket offer.

O2

Their lowest 4G monthly phone tariff is £22 on O2 Refresh for unlimited talk/text with 1GB of data – but if you’re looking to actually use 4G for what it was designed for, this goes up to £32 for up to 8GB of data usage (these introductory offers and data-allowances end 31 October, though), all on a 24-month contract.

4G Simplicity starts at £26 for unlimited talk/text with 1GB of data, up to 8GB of data for £36 (again, these introductory offers and data-allowances end 31 October).

These prices come with 1 year of free music streaming with O2 Tracks, free O2 Wifi use, and free online gameplay on O2 Games as well (data usage free when playing online multiplayer games on 4G device on a 4G tariff).

Vodafone

Their lowest plan SIM-only from £26 for 2GB of data with 6 months of free Sky Sports or Spotify, and a max of 8GB for £36 with 12 months of free Sky Sports or Spotify. Both have only 750MB of free wifi usage.

For a 24-month plan they offer unlimited talk/text with 2GB data “from” £31 per month (dependent on “free” handset choice), up to £38 if your handset choice happens to be the Galaxy S4. Their highest data offer is 8GB “from” £40, and can reach up to £57 if your handset choice is the Galaxy Note 2.

You also get 6 months of free Spotify or Sky Sports mobile use as a special offer, all on a 24 month contract.

Prepare to pay much more for 12 month contracts!

 

 

 

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