German hospitals have stolen a march on 4G cost savings

Tom Welsh
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BATTERSEA saw the launch of the UK’s first major fourth generation (4G) mobile service last Thursday. Nicole Scherzinger of X-Factor chose a dress made up of live Tweets for the occasion, while a 4D light show transformed the grim exterior of Battersea’s derelict power station into a lively illumination of what a future super-fast Britain has to look forward to.

With promised speeds up to five times faster than the existing third generation (3G) network, the new service holds promise for both business and consumers. A study by EE – owner of T-Mobile and Orange in the UK, and the company that launched the network – suggests that 4G could help British firms increase innovation, boost productivity and cut costs.

By questioning 1,200 business decision makers in Germany, Japan and the US – which already have 4G networks – the study threw up interesting results, and plenty of reasons for optimism.

Some of it was fairly obvious. Companies without fixed landlines, or which use cloud storage, were able to access their data more quickly. Globe-trotting executives could also obtain higher quality and more reliable video-conferencing services. Less time waiting for downloads means more time spent productively.

But other results were more interesting. The construction industry wouldn’t be top of my list of sectors waiting to be transformed by faster network speeds. But one US-based builder found a way. It used 4G networks to send real-time data from its construction projects back to the firm’s headquarters. A combination of the ability to constantly track what was happening on site, with being able to immediately respond to any problems, helped reduce project completion times by as much as 30 per cent.

And there is hope for those concerned about dire productivity levels in the UK healthcare sector. A German hospital trialled a 4G-enabled ambulance, and used the high data speeds to transfer CT images from a moving vehicle to the emergency room, reducing therapy times for stroke victims by 54 per cent.

Hopefully we’ll see some home-grown examples along these lines now that 4G has finally come to our shores. But that’s partly the problem – although Britain was one of the first countries to auction off its 3G spectrum, it’ll be one of the last to do the same with 4G. EE has already launched its network in Britain, but only because it was given specific permission by communications regulator Ofcom to use parts of its existing spectrum.

It’s worrying that a combination of legal delays and a leisurely government decision-making process has meant that EE will be without a competitor in the super-fast market until next year. Yes we now have 4G, but no thanks to this government.

Twitter: @TWWelsh