Roll on 4G: Needless delay has been expensive for businesses

Marc Sidwell
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IT WON’T work with your iPad 3; there’ll be no more London 2012 events to stream on your phone by then; and Facebook’s still rubbish on mobiles. Is the imminent appearance of 4G in the UK really something worth caring about? According to the numbers, yes.

In October last year, a report from Open Digital (full disclosure, co-authored by my wife) calculated that the cost of delaying 4G in the UK could range between £550m and £915m a year, thanks to lost business hours from slower downloads. Individual delays might seem insignificant, but the cumulative cost is large, because business use accounts for more than a fifth of internet traffic. 4G will also be about three times faster than 3G, and 30 times faster than 2G. Better coverage for 4G will allow some to leapfrog from sluggish 2G straight to 4G – though it’s unclear if this will improve the inexplicably poor reception in my corner of the City.

The delayed arrival of 4G in the UK has become an embarrassment. The Everything Everywhere rollout from September will only be a preview for the main event in 2013, following the spectrum auction later this year. With no further delays, that still leaves us four years behind the first European experiments and three years behind the US. It’s a costly delay, and it’s past time to catch up.