4G explained and five reasons to upgrade

The day has almost come where 4G is no longer available only to those in the EE camp. Both Vodafone and O2 will release their own high-speed mobile data tomorrow, 29 August.

You've more than likely heard or seen the 4G phrase being thrown around, whether it's the numerous bus stop adverts offering you the world to upgrade from your 3G contract, or your handset featuring the words "4G-ready" on its spec list. But what does 4G actually mean and why should you bother?

Well, in the most simple terms possible, it refers to the fourth-generation of wireless technology networks and is all about faster internet on the go. A step up from 3G, meaning surfing the web, downloading videos and retrieving app updates will be a lot faster than before.

However, it does rely on good reception and a 4G-ready handset, without either of which you won't be getting faster anything, let alone internet.

EE has had exclusivity since October 2012, with its service covering 100 cities including London, Cardiff and Oxford, as well as plans to have 98 per cent coverage by the end of 2014.

Vodafone and O2 on the other hand, are only just rolling out their 4G networks so coverage will be more limited to begin with. They both promise to play catch up quickly though and offer a more "robust service" that works effectively indoors. While Three has revealed that its 4G services will roll-out in December in London, Birmingham and Manchester. The most enticing part of its deal is that it will not be charging a premium over its 3G plans, simply upgrading existing customers for free. 

Taking EE's 4G speeds as a base, the company offers 24-30mbps, likely to give you around 6-15mbps in London, but still faster than most rural broadband connections which offer between 2-8mbps. In some cities such as Birmingham, EE's 4G will offer "peaks as high as 60mbps". To put that into comparison, 3G is 1.5Mb/s.

They say the best things in life are free, but when it comes to faster on-the-go internet that isn't quite the case and you will pay a premium for the privilege, although this is beginning to come down. If you’re lucky, you might get a few added extras such as Spotify when you upgrade, so it's worth checking out all the deals around.

READ: Best 4G deals: UK 4G networks and tariffs compared

This speedier internet service won't benefit everyone but to some 4G will make a huge difference. If you use your handset for making calls, sending texts and taking snaps but nothing else, then don’t bother. But if you can relate to any of our five reasons why to get it, then 4G will be your new best friend.

Quicker video downloading

If you spend half your time waiting for videos to download, then 4G will be a godsend. Putting the numbers into perspective, downloading a 10-minute video clip on a 3G connection can take you 10 minutes. Download the same clip on a 4G connection and it would take around 35 seconds. That’s 9 minutes, 25 seconds of your life you get to do other things. And media streaming apps, like BBC iPlayer, will work much more instantly.

Better quality video calling

Ever sat on Facetime or Skype and the person you are video calling turns into messed up pixels because of a poor or slow connection? Or maybe your hilarious joke didn't get the instant reaction you were after? Well that's a thing of the past with 4G. No more pixels and instant laughs (joke depending) should be the future with 4G connection speeds.

Faster apps and podcast downloads

If you're a podcast fan or you like to keep all your apps up to date rather than waiting for a Wi-Fi connection, then 4G will be worth it for you. Should there be a Twitter update or Pocket-lint podcast you can't bear the thought of waiting to download, 4G will give it to you in seconds. There are caveats, such as the iPhone, for example, having a size lock on certain file downloads over mobile data, but there are workarounds readily available. You will also need a decent data limit so that you don't unwittingly go over your allowance.

Speedier browsing capabilities

Whether you are shopping, paying bills or finding out a quick fact about something, 4G will make sure you can do it instantly. Browsing the web will be at least four times faster, so be careful when you’re online shopping. Once you’ve clicked, there is no time to be changing your mind. Handy for pub quizzes if you don't play by the "no smartphones" rule. And Shazam. Heh.

More efficient apps

You might not be a huge movie watcher or video downloader but if you can’t be without Facebook or Twitter, you will see a benefit with 4G. You'll get quicker status updates, picture uploading and page loading, so the speed will be great if you love "checking in" or posting endless pictures. It will also help for other apps such as maps, helping you get to where you need to be faster.

In a nutshell, everything will be faster so if you use your phone for anything other than phone calls, texts and taking pictures, upgrading to 4G will more than likely benefit you in some way or another.



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