It was recently announced that Everything Everywhere, the mobile network partnership between T Mobile and Orange, would be the first to launch a 4G network in the UK. Bringing forward the originally planned date of 2013, the 4G network is expected to launch on October 30th in select cities. Potential speeds will be four to five times higher than what we currently receive from 3G networks, and will provide extensive benefits for users. It’s worth, then, reviewing what you should now about 4G technology, how the networks are being set up, and what obstacles are still being worked around the network.

Understanding 4G

Since their introduction, mobile phones have used different networking standards for communicating. 1G phones represented analogue devices, with 2G phones upgrading to digital. The most recent network standard, 3G, relies on transferring packets of data wirelessly, and has been defined by smartphones and tablets being able to access the Internet. 3G networks currently offer somewhere between 4 Mbps and 20 Mbps for download and upload speeds, but can vary in terms of quality from different providers. Anyone who has a 3G enabled phone has probably experienced this variation, particularly if they’re travelling.

4G is the next step up in terms of networking speed, and should represent a major leap in terms of quality and consistency compared to 3G. This increase is due to a higher spectrum allocation, and to improved systems for maintaining the strength of a signal. Since the mid 2000s there have been two main types of 4G. The most common is Long Term Evolution (LTE), which expands on the existing 3G network, and upgrades antennas and multiplexing to provide a different signal on a wider spectrum band. This is the 4G technology that will be used in the UK, and that is most common in terms of its similarity to 3G. The other technology, WiMax, is closer to Wi-Fi in its workings, but is more restricted in terms of how quickly it can be implemented.

Users of 4G should expect to see a major difference in how they browse the Internet on their phones, as well as a much faster download and upload rate. Similarities can be drawn here between the boost you may have already received by going from a phone line broadband system to a fibre optic connection at home. 4G speeds may be as high as 100 Mbps in some areas, although somewhere between 25 and 50 Mpbs is more likely. The technology should also mean that 4G signals don’t cut out as often on trains, and when travelling. Users should be able to watch HD videos, make video calls, and download and stream content without significant interruption. Indeed, a 4G connection through a dongle might actually be better value for money than having a permanent landline.

In terms of when 4G will be available, EE’s launch on October 30th comes many months before the original estimations of early 2013. Delays have been caused by disputes over auctioning off the radio spectrum required for the network, which has been dependent on shutting down analogue television signals. Other mobile providers like O2 have criticised EE’s ability to rush into an early market. The EE network is only going to be available in ten UK cities – Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Sheffield. It is believed that early packages will involve £5 a month for a 4G connection, as well as different data limits, which will rise to about 128 GB a month. Businesses can pay £3 for a basic connection.

Although EE claim to already have about 250,000 customers signed up to 4G, the exact performance of the new network will likely contain bugs. You’ll also need to upgrade to a 4G enabled handset if you haven’t already, with notable sets including the Samsung Galaxy III. There are also some discrepancies between new iPads and iPhones and the 4G network spectrum in the UK, so there may be a wait for these signals to work properly. In addition, 4G will drain your battery faster than 3G. While those customers based in large cities that already have Orange or T Mobile contracts can experiment with the service, other people may benefit from waiting until rival providers can come out with competitive price packages, and for more stable networks to be established around the country in 2013.

Author Bio: Liam Ohm writes about technology. He highly recommends cloud services as a great way of storing your data externally.