More and more SMEs are relying on their employees to use smartphones and tablets for work. Whether it’s contacting clients away from the office, preparing presentations on the move or accessing the web away from a desk, handheld devices have become imperative to the modern workplace. Just under 75% of workers surveyed by Forrester in 2012 used two or more smart devices for work, and this is likely to have increased since.
The fourth generation of mobile broadband (4G) has made enormous strides to accommodate the frequency with which businesses and their employees now use mobile devices. However, the technology is still not operating at its full potential - there is plenty of room for it to develop in the future, which would consequently improve business for those SMEs that rely on such connectivity.
At the moment, the millimetre radio wave spectrum that is used to power the 4G networks in Britain is working at a low frequency - at least, compared to what it could be. This is something that the next generation of mobile internet, 5G - expected to rollout before 2020 - will attempt to solve. Those testing the technology are attempting to transmit data at a much higher frequency, with the potential to deliver mobile internet services at speeds almost fifty times faster.
SMEs that rely on mobile internet could see an enormous increase in productivity when 5G comes into existence. Emailing, downloading files or sharing information in a cloud space for SMEs will all become a quicker, easier process. Businesses spread across several locations could work with greater efficiency, and employees that need to stay connected on-the-go could do so with ease.
The improvement will most benefit SMEs that typically operate in rural areas of the United Kingdom - areas where mobile broadband is often weak or non-existent. 5G's reach will be a lot larger than 4G's, and will allow rural SMEs to utilise the same powerful mobile facilities as their urban counterparts.
5G will also potentially make connectivity more reliable than ever before. Current mobile broadband systems are susceptible to dropping signal and performance issues during peak times, slowing business down as a result. However, the aforementioned high frequency of transmission, alongside the use of updated technology, means that this will soon be a thing of the past.
Using mobile internet for work purposes may be increasingly common because it is smart, advanced and can be accessed on the move. However, the limited data caps and high prices that come with 4G are often a limiting factor for SMEs. The cost of 4G means that it probably will not overtake fixed line channels as the primary option for communication.
But this could all change with the rollout of 5G. Unlike 4G, which is being provided to customers and businesses as one package, analysts are suggesting that 5G could offer a tiered pricing model. The aforementioned popularity of mobile data may allow mobile network operators to set prices depending on how much data a consumer requires. This could be great news for SMEs that occasionally use mobile data but are stung with hefty bills to use it.
Businesses may be capitalising on the amazing technological advancements mobile platforms have made in growing numbers. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly faults with what is currently on offer. Speed, reliability and connectivity are all far from the level of efficiency that SMEs are beginning to demand in the modern business landscape.
The advent of 5G and other mobile technologies will not only allow mobile broadband to edge closer to its maximum potential - it will also give a boost to companies that rely on the technology in many ways. SMEs making the most out of these platforms could access fast, strong and reliable data with 5G - and do so at a reasonable cost too. It is something that all UK SMEs should be aware of as we reach this critical turning point in mobile technology.
By Daniel Sarath
About the author: Daniel Sarath is a writer who specialises in topics such as technology, telecoms and employment. His work can be found on websites including Number Direct, Yahoo, LifeHack and Tech Cocktail.
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