A recent report from Deloitte anticipates that global revenues from 4G are likely to reach £60 billion by 2014, with more than 200 operators running networks in 75 countries. This is entirely plausible: in the UK, O2 and Vodafone have now launched their 4G offerings, finally bringing competition to EE, and Three is soon to follow.
Moreover, China Mobile is planning to spend some $30 billion (£18.6bn) on its network this year with about a quarter of that amount earmarked for TD-LTE technology.
Deloitte predicts that 4G subscriber numbers will triple compared to 2012, reaching around 200 million globally as customers take advantage of improved email services, mobile video, faster browsing, sharper images and richer content (in light of the latest advances in Ultra HD and 4K).
With so much demand and a heightened level of competition, how can mobile operators be sure to keep competitive whilst making 4G profitable? And what does this mean when it comes to network capacity, capability and the operators themselves?
Despite the increases in speed and reach that these technologies bring, mobile bandwidth demand will continue to run ahead of supply especially in areas such as video consumption, two way video communications, and tasks moving from a desktop/PC oriented environment to the mobile world.
So mobile operators must not only try and keep up with this demand, but also make sure that they use their bandwidth in the most advantageous way. To help address those challenges, some companies - including Tata Communications - have been working on deploying a Hosted Policy Exchange for mobile operators.
The exchange will be a cloud-based software solution for mobile service providers aimed at allowing them to have more granular controls, right down to the subscriber level for bandwidth consumption, application usage, and network priority usage. Providing these capabilities will mean that mobile service providers (MSPs) have additional tools to create new offers at the subscriber level
Furthermore, MSPs will be able to explore alternative charging models; for example, having the content provider pay for the network usage when that subscriber is consuming content, as opposed to having the subscriber pay for the data usage.
4G is going to go a long way to providing the needed boost in mobile access speeds. Demand, however, will continue to outpace supply, and MSPs must have more capabilities to manage their networks when these situations arise - to guard against drops in connectivity and maintain quality.
These more dynamic usage and pricing models will also help them to better monetise networks on the back of the investments levels required to roll out 4G effectively.
John Hayduk is president of product management and service development at global telecoms firm Tata Communications.