Transforming connectivity with 4G in the UK
LTE, commonly known as 4G, is the next big technology for businesses, enabling an always-on and always-connected enterprise. Since the launch of 4G across the UK the reliability of faster networking has been transforming connectivity, and with the latest innovations in networking businesses are no longer limited to fixed-line services. The scale and speed offered by 4G means that enterprises can get onsite or temporary networks up and running incredibly quickly, and with the reliability offered by these networks enterprises can be assured of 24/7 productivity. New technologies and new business models are leading innovation in areas such as machine-to-machine communications (M2M), digital commerce and connected vehicles. 4G is the fourth generation of mobile cellular communications technology. It focusses on boosting mobile broadband performance and is designed primarily to deliver significant increases in data capacity and connection speeds. What makes this next generation so much more efficient is its ability to squeeze more bits per second into the electromagnetic radio spectrum. Spectrum is a limited resource and mobile network operators (MNOs) have always worked hard to engineer greater capacity in a given bandwidth. The technologies built into the LTE networking standard allow MNOs to get more capacity out of the same resource, which means the network can handle more traffic and achieve faster speeds.
Businesses are just beginning to realise the benefits of 4G, but consumers have been taking advantage of the 4G offerings at a faster rate than predicted. Ofcom reports that 4G mobile subscriptions jumped from a mere 318,000 in the first quarter of 2013 to more than 6 million in 2014.
LTE coverage across the UK
According to the latest Ofcom report, the UK’s four leading national mobile network operators — EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three — have significantly grown their 4G networks and EE are already covering 81% of premises across the UK. This rapid expansion means that LTE is getting better all the time with operators targeted to reach 98% UK coverage by 2017.
Bearing in mind that these figures include areas outside metropolitan areas (which see significantly higher coverage levels) and they relate to indoor (household) reception, the picture for enterprise usage is even rosier. Consumer handsets have tiny integrated receivers compared with commercial routers. Using a robust external antenna will pick up a much stronger signal and significantly improve network performance, making these devices capable of strong performance even in the most difficult of indoor areas, such as large shopping malls, or the most remote of rural areas.
One of our channel partner account managers shared an example of this with me recently. While in mid Wales, an area Ofcom identifies as having limited 4G coverage, she had zero signal on her smartphone and no WiFi hotspot in sight. Fortunately she had one of our Cradlepoint 4G routers installed in her car with a roof antenna and was not only able to get coverage, but 2.76Mbit/s upload speeds. This demonstrates that, with the right equipment, you can expect even greater coverage than reported.
Get ready for speed
With speeds to rival alternative connectivity options, 4G has the capacity to play an important role in enterprise network solutions both onsite and on the move. 4G really does compete with fixed-line options and WiFi. The speed with which we can share information, especially when working remotely, is arguably more important than the consumer focus on download, and this is where 4G excels. LTE average upload speed is 13.6Mbit/s, making it eight times faster than 3G (1.6Mbit/s) and five times faster than an average fixed line connection (2.4Mbit/s according to Ofcom). In terms of download speeds, 4G offers double the average speed of fixed lines and almost triple that of 3G with EE offering an average download across the UK of 18.6Mbit/s and significantly more than that in major cities.
At Cradlepoint, we appreciate the importance of knowing your network functionality. Last month we released our latest NetCloud Manager (NCM) software that speed-tests the cellular WAN connection straight from our router or cloud management platform. This means no more subjective tests from smartphones and, best of all, the ability to run a test remotely. For a multi-site enterprise this is transformational.
Benefits of LTE for enterprise
4G networking means more to business than just the ability to get access to emails anywhere or have an HD call or video chat – although it obviously offers these capabilities too. It means no longer being bound to fixed-line services. Cradlepoint’s 4G-enabled devices offer:
Fast and straightforward set up of multi-site and temporary networks
Protecting the primary fixed line link to give affordable 99.99% uptime
Providing network services on Day 1, not Day 56 when the fixed line goes live
Providing alternative air-gapped networks for non-core applications
Fully diverse Out-of-Band Management (OOBM)
M2M and IoT solutions
So getting sites up and running and keeping them up and running; connecting non-core applications separately, remotely managing site devices in-band and out-of-band and connecting everything, everywhere.
Embedding LTE solutions into a wide area network (WAN) is hugely cost effective
And when it comes to working remotely, you’ll no longer need to wait weeks to be up and running – businesses can get going without the wait for cable installation. Case in point, a leading UK Construction company, is using Cradlepoint 4G wireless routers to reduce the time it takes to set up a remote project sites from 30 days to under 48 hours. Their engineers and designers can start work almost as soon as they’re onsite, an efficiency that would not have been possible prior to 4G. It’s working so well for them that they’ve expanded the service and are now looking at pushing the capabilities for 4G WAN even further.
Outages can prove massively detrimental, both to your bottom line as well as your brand. If your WAN is fully reliant on a DSL or MPLS line, it can be more at risk of severe disruption. However, a Wireless WAN, using a 4G router as your backup WAN, is the perfect solution. 4G can pick up if the main network fails, offering seamless connectivity at broadband speeds. This failsafe is essential for businesses like banks, retail stores or restaurants that simply cannot afford to risk downtime during their opening hours.
Leading innovation with LTE
Emerging technologies and new business models are creating innovation in areas such as M2M, digital commerce and connected vehicles. For example, Bauer, one of our customers in the US, runs a fleet of coaches, shuttles and limo vans. Used by tech companies, universities and other corporates in California, they’ve ensured that all their vehicles are supplied with wireless routers, in order to offer passengers connectivity on the move. However, they struggled when it came to ensuring there was enough bandwidth for some of their larger coaches carrying workers from Silicon Valley. With over 50 passengers, all expecting a high-quality network, Bauer needed a scalable solution that suited all.
Using the Cradlepoint router, they were able to set limits for each user, providing enough bandwidth for each passenger to be able to carry on working while commuting. Due to the ease of implementation, staff are able to switch routers between vehicles allowing for even more passengers wireless broadband access and operator flexibility.
The sky is the limit
Among the leading MNOs in the UK, EE is the frontrunner when it comes to 4G. They are already offering an option that hits speeds of 80-90Mbit/s. They’ve also launched 4G+ (also called LTE-Advanced) in London, with the intent on offering real world speeds of 150Mbit/s (but there’s the potential to get that up to 300Mbit/s). It’s a safe bet that, as we’ve seen previously with the 4G race, Vodafone, O2 and Three will soon be talking about their plans in these areas. And with ‘5G’ due to be launched by 2020, promising speeds of up to 1Gbit/s, we can guarantee more advancements, innovation and competition in the world of telecommunications.
Super-fast mobile technology is changing the game of enterprise. With growing coverage, increasing speeds and innovative development, businesses can access high speed networks from anywhere and always stay connected.