Vodafone: 4G for smartphones just the business

The extra speed and bandwidth of new service can translate into productivity gains


Today’s launch by Vodafone of its 4G service for smartphones offers the prospect of real productivity gains for businesses according to Vodafone Ireland’s enterprise director Anne Sheehan.

“Eight out of 10 business leaders believe 4G will increase their productivity,” she says. “The global trends towards increased flexible working, rising data consumption, and an accelerating move to cloud computing are all driving the need for 4G services as well as facilitating the productivity gains it offers.”

The scale of this growth in demand for mobile connectivity is illustrated by the latest industry estimates which forecast that there will be 3.7 billion connected to the internet worldwide by 2015, with 25 per cent of them connecting through a mobile network.

Sheehan believes the arguments for adopting 4G are very strong. “4G’s extra speed and bandwidth can translate into business benefits such as improved ability to respond to customers, enhanced customer experience, improved remote working experience, and increased organisational flexibility. These benefits translate into increased productivity due to the ability to work at office speeds when out of the office.”

Research carried out by Circle Research on behalf of Vodafone Ireland confirms the main benefits which Irish businesses expect 4G to deliver with 83 per cent of them expecting higher speed; 77 per cent anticipating better coverage as well as new services; while 74 per cent of them foresee bigger data allowances. In addition, 57 per cent said they plan to invest in 4G data services within the next two years

“In today’s fast-paced environment access to email and work files and the flexibility to continue to work effectively while out of the office is essential”, Sheehan notes. “This applies to almost anyone looking to access files from the cloud.”

She cites the example of doctors or consultants who may need to access patient files from the cloud in an instant as a case in point. “Engineers and architects increasingly need to download large Autocad files while out on site, while consultancies like Accenture with large numbers of staff working in clients’ offices have large numbers of people looking to connect to their network at the same time. The increased bandwidth offered by 4G meets these needs.”

Access to data services
And the benefits aren’t confined to large organisations. “Small businesses and government offices in rural locations that previously had no broadband connectivity will now have access to data services and this can transform their operational capabilities. Photographers and other media professionals needing to send and receive very large amounts of data can transfer a 400MB file to and from servers in about three minutes – that’s down from a current time of over half an hour. Broadcasters can transfer a 6MB audio file from a smartphone via email in about five seconds down from a current 15 seconds. With 4G connectivity, customers can get the DSL wifi experience, but on a mobile network while on the go even while on the Luas or on a bus.”

She also believes the rollout of 4G will accelerate the shift towards mobile working. “We are witnesses to an unfolding revolution in communications technology, one that will continue to massively extend our professional capabilities”, she says.

“The anytime, anywhere worker will become safe in the knowledge that bandwidth overloads and network failures can no longer stand in the way of their connectivity. Equally, the rollout of 4G has direct implications for the cloud, enabling enterprises to find cost-efficiencies by migrating applications and files to the internet. Most importantly, 4G serves to bridge the gap between traditional desktop-based and mobile working – access to corporate data and applications on the go and the ability to communicate anytime, anywhere empowers enterprise workforces to fulfil all the tasks they would need to perform on a computer, from far beyond the constraints of a desk.”

One company which is already enjoying the benefits of 4G is Dawn Meats Group, the Irish family-owned food business with annual sales of €800 million and 2,700 people employed in 16 sites in eight countries across Europe. The group was part of the initial Vodafone 4G trial carried out in the southeast region in the autumn. “We have 1,200 telephones and 670 mobiles using unified communications and we wanted to take part in the Vodafone 4G trial,” says Dawn Meats network and infrastructure manager Stephen Farrell.

“It’s amazingly quick and the upload speed is faster than we have seen anywhere before. It’s faster than home fixed line broadband and the people in the company who were on the trial all stopped using their home broadband. It’s also incredibly reliable.”

Video conferencing
The company used the service for video conferencing. “We use video conferencing to cut down on travel times for our people but DSL doesn’t allow for HD video. When we got the 4G in we borrowed some kit from Cisco and used it for full HD video conference meetings on the service. This means that we will be able to use video conferencing in sites where it wasn’t possible before or would have required us to install fibre at huge cost.”

Another benefit is the enhanced mobile experience. “When staff connect to the network from home or while they are on the move the experience is as good as it is if they were in the office. It’s incredible, no delays saving files or anything. 4G audio is also brilliant – it’s often better than landline quality. Overall, 4G gives us the ability to work in more places; to get information where and when we need it; and it facilitates more flexible working for our people.”

According to Sheehan: “Forward-thinking businesses like Dawn Meats realise that the most important innovations are not just in technology, but in embracing better working practices.”