4G is the next logical step in the evolution of cellular connectivity, and allows us to continue increasing the throughput of data, meaning we can get something like a broadband experience – at least in theory.
In fact, although 4G has a theoretical download rate of 12Mbps or above, the fact is that the more users there are connected to a mast, the more the speed decreases. Therefore, we are unlikely in the short term to experience this, but it is likely that operators will need to rely on as seamless a public wi-fi offering as possible to fulfil the 4G promise.
4G is being rolled out by EE in 11 British cities, with five more due to follow around Christmas. EE have a clear six month headstart on the other operators, and are already using this as a point of difference in their service.
What difference will it make to consumers?
The primary difference for consumers is that they will increase the frequency and volume of mobile media consumed. This is borne out by results in the US, Korea and elsewhere, where 4G has been established for some time. Perhaps the primary difference will be smooth viewing of mobile video, already a huge driver of mobile data - so YouTube, iPlayer and other video sites will benefit greatly.
Other than this, 4G is unlikely to be a huge step-change for consumers, who have been used to seeing a regular annual increase in data speeds for some time.
What effect will 4G have on mobile marketing?
The primary impact is likely to be on mobile ad formats. Mobile advertising has been moving away from direct response to more brand-building formats for some time, led by the iAd, but users on 4G will be able to have a better experience when not connected to wi-fi, leading to more video- and interaction-rich experiences within banners. This is a fringe benefit, though, as a large proportion of mobile ads are already served through wi-fi connections now.
Other benefits of increased speed will be in multiplayer gaming and collaborative experiences – in early trials, O2 engineers set up PlayStations connected via 4G and could play multiplayer games perfectly. We should be able to engineer a range of multi-party experiences that add to campaigns. In the B2B world, providers will be able to provide more and richer content to 4G-enabled workforces.
Tim Dunn is head of mobile strategy at creative agency glue Isobar