As more businesses have embraced cloud technologies and other high bandwidth applications, the importance of having a fast and reliable connectivity has only increased. In the early days of the internet, when people headed online purely to find out information or send the odd email, slow download and upload speeds were an inconvenience - but little more than that. However, for many companies online functionality has become mission-critical in recent years. Unless employees are able to have constant business-grade connectivity, they can find themselves unable to access files, documents, data and communication platforms.
In 2013, businesses have a range of options for getting online, beyond the traditional fixed connection. If they are connecting PCs and laptops in the office, businesses can access ADSL+ or fibre lines to increase broadband speeds, and they can set up in-house wireless networks to give users more flexibility of location on-site. But in many cases, mobile broadband has been the real game-changer for business organisations. With employees now able to access fast and reliable broadband services on the move, across a wide variety of locations, employees can do productive work over a variety of devices. Crucially, the speeds available to mobile broadband users are increasing all the time, meaning there are few tasks which cannot be carried out using a smartphone, media tablet or other connected device.
Using mobile broadband for work purposes
The mobile internet has come a long way in the last ten years since the launch of 3G connectivity. It was possible to access the internet using an earlier 2G network, however users simply had access to a few basic landing pages, and if they were lucky, email access. From 2003, 3G brought faster download speeds, and the ability to transfer data at the rate required to support proper internet access. This gave manufacturers the impetus to develop mobile devices capable not just of making calls and sending text messages, but also supporting a fully functional web browser and user apps.
With a 3G smartphone, mobile workers can, on average, access broadband speeds of around 2Mbps - enough to support most online tasks. However, such speeds are not sufficient to allow employees to operate effectively in the cloud, not without a slow and disrupted service. Realistically, the range of tasks which can be completed is much narrower than if you are using a stable fixed broadband connection. Plus, there have always been issues about service coverage - if mobile workers enter into an area which cannot pick up a mobile signal, they may find themselves unable to use their online applications.
How to access faster mobile broadband
The advent of 4G has changed everything for mobile workers. The launch of next-generation mobile services means laptop, smartphone and tablet users can access download speeds of up to 20Mbps - fast by anyone's reckoning. They can also benefit from more reliable connections, which are backed up by 3G connectivity should there be an issue with the super-fast service. In a nutshell, if workers want faster internet services on their mobile devices, they simply need to take out a 4G mobile broadband contract.
4G arrived in the UK in October 2012, when EE reprovisioned its existing 1,800MHz spectrum for the launch of super-fast mobile broadband. Since then, the mobile broadband provider has introduced next-generation mobile services in more than 100 towns and cities across the UK, offering access to faster downloads to millions of professionals and consumers.
Future hopes for mobile broadband
For the first nine months, EE had little or no competition in the market, but now rivals including O2 and Vodafone have entered the 4G arena. Five companies purchased spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands in Ofcom's auction in spring 2013, allowing them to launch their own 4G services. This means that, over the coming months and years, 4G will be rolled out to at least 98 per cent of the UK. The upshot of this for mobile workers is that they should always be able to access super-fast mobile broadband, giving them the confidence to utilise the cloud, online video, conferencing and other high-bandwidth, high-value applications on the move.
A range of 4G mobile broadband deals are now available, depending on whether customers want a device included with their package and how much data they want per month. The needs of mobile workers will no doubt depend on the job they are doing, how often they expect to be online, and the type of applications they expect to use.
From a productivity perspective, 4G connectivity can only prove to be beneficial, as mobile workers are able to get more done during the working day. Whether they are on the train, in a taxi, waiting at the airport or in a hotel room, remote employees should have access to a whole range of online tools and services, with a reduced risk of entering a connectivity not-spot and finding themselves unable to get online.
Microsoft's mobile solutions can help your remote workers maximise their productivity.
Posted by Dan Smith