The 4G Hustle

4G speeds mean superfast internet. And... that's about it.

Feature by Alex Cole | 30 Oct 2012
  • 4G Phones

4G! It’s like data-mana from heaven! For how long have we languished in this forsaken digital landscape with measly 3G speeds (or HSDPA+, if you’re lucky and nerdy)? This month, Everything Everywhere, the preposterously-named unholy union of T-Mobile and Orange, will launch the first 4G service in the UK, with more to come later from the other carriers (who are less than pleased at having to wait). Ostensibly, this means that if you have the right kind of handset, and the right signal area, you’ll see speeds on your mobile that are as good or better than many Wi-Fi connections.

What this really means for most people differs depending on what you really want to do with your mobile in the first place. On the good side, if you’re a media fiend, you’ll see HD YouTube videos loading almost instantly, be able to run video chats without a stutter, download huge files quickly, and get complex data like maps as fast as you can view it. Even more, if you tether your laptop and tablet to your mobile internet connection, then you can see those speeds on all of your devices, which may mean, for some people, not even needing a home Wi-Fi connection at all, and taking your internet with you wherever you go.

On the more practical side, most people still just use their mobiles for texts, emails and adding vintage effects to photos, none of which will really change for being a second or two faster. 4G also destroys most mobile batteries and depending on your phone to last all day becomes a risky affair again. And while speedy video on demand has its appeal, the realities of your internet being subject to the annoyances of mobile signal haven’t really changed.

When many people started doing away with their landlines in favour of mobiles only, it was a bizarre idea at first, that then became understandable for some people, then everyone, and now landlines are a vanishing breed. Replacing your internet with a single account that follows you anywhere may be the next step, but even with 4G, we’re still a ways away.

Right now the service is available only in predetermined cities (Scotland gets its due), rolling out to more later on, but this highlights the one problem mobile internet has yet to solve. It’s all well and good to have great service in the city, but most of the time I spend in cities is in places that already have Wi-Fi I can use. I need mobile internet when I’m far away from all that, which is sometimes in the bare landscape between Croy and Glasgow. Do that, and then this 4G will start to have my attention.