Verizon tested out its LTE (Long Term Evolution) network this week in Boston and Seattle. LTE is a major step forward in the march toward entirely IP-based mobile communications and full 4G wireless. Once 4G speeds are generally available in major markets across the country it will transform expectations of what a mobile device is capable of and continue to blur the line between communications, entertainment, and productivity.
The marketing from mobile providers such as AT&T and Verizon has been all about 3G for the past couple of years with vendors competing for bragging rights for the biggest 3G network, or the fastest 3G network, or the most reliable 3G network. Mobile devices with 3G connectivity have blazed a path for mobile communications similar to the evolution from dial-up Internet connections to broadband. But, advances in mobile networking have quickly outpaced the expansion of bandwidth and left 3G networks struggling to keep up with demand.
Verizon has already been offering the VCast Mobile TV service which provides various channels of streaming video. VCast combines 3G connectivity with a portion of the UHF TV spectrum (separate from the frequency range used for traditional TV broadcasts) to deliver real-time TV to VCast-capable mobile devices. There are rumors that Netflix may soon provide streaming on-demand video rentals directly to the iPhone. Streaming video and the ability to watch live TV anytime and anywhere can help you stay connected and informed, or just be entertained. Regardless, streaming video strains the capacity of 3G networking and the LTE/4G speeds will revolutionize the streaming video capabilities of mobile devices.
The ability to watch TV on a mobile phone is great for consumers, but offers very little benefit for businesses. Fear not. There are plenty of business benefits of LTE/4G connectivity as well. Unified communications has already blurred many lines between computers and mobile phones. The increased bandwidth of 4G networks will enable mobile users to participate in video conferencing from anywhere in the world. Some phone devices such as the HTC Touch Pro2 are even equipped with dual cameras specifically for the purpose of video conferencing. Most mobile phones have the camera on the back. The HTC Touch Pro2 also has a camera on the front so you can still view the LCD screen while the camera transmits streaming video of you at the same time.
The evolution to away from cellular technology to an all IP-based mobile connection also opens up whole new realms of functionality for roaming employees who need access to network resources. The improved security of IP networking combined with the increased bandwidth of LTE / 4G will allow users to work more efficiently and increase their productivity even if equipped with nothing more than their mobile phone.
Have you ever tried to watch a video on Youtube.com using a 56k dial-up Internet connection? It can be done, but once you connect to the Internet over a 10mbps cable modem connection you will never be able to use the dial-up again. That is the difference that LTE and 4G will bring to mobile communications. LTE and 4G will accelerate the evolution of the cell phone from a portable voice communication tool to a fully functioning communications, productivity and entertainment platform that fits in your pocket.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.