Wireless fundamentals – How 4G is shoring up our virtual lives

Aside from the trifling trade wars being orchestrated by Donald Trump’s America, much of the current hype in the tech world involves fascinating stories about the capabilities of 5G technology.

The next generation of wireless technology that is so fast, you can download a high-resolution movie in almost the same time it takes to blink your eye.

In the midst of pandemic period, when staying at home is the new normal and “can you hear me” is the new “hello” – the subject of broadband connectivity is bound to be at the heart of many an urban households conversation.

One of the most frustrating aspects of our new reality is conferencing with people you can’t hear properly. The worst part is not realizing how bad you sound to them.

Network operators like Safaricom have moved to prop up their bandwidth to accommodate increased traffic.

But it is 4G/LTE technology and not 5G that is vastly responsible for the optimal success of the virtual lives that we are living right now.

5G is still in its infant stages and a lot of digital plumbing is currently underway to bring it to life.

It is 4G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology that has also provided lifesaving connectivity during the pandemic period.

All over the world, COVID-19 may be getting all the headlines, but patients are still getting sick from other ailments. Doctors are now relying on 4G/LTE powered telemedicine equipment and services to treat patients while minimizing contact.  

Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, for instance, is now encouraging patients to utilize its telehealth services whereby a patient can receive a full consultation and drug prescriptions from the comfort of their home.

In developed nations like Ireland, 4G connections are powering COVID-19 contact tracing apps which are being used to do the tedious task of finding the close contacts of infected people.

Essentially, even though 5G technology is imminent, 4G/LTE connections will continue to power much of our digital lives. From making phone calls and skyping with your boss, to virtual classes for school goers or even streaming your favourite show on Netflix.

Henry Calvert, head of the Network 2020 future network programme at GSMA reckons that 4G/LTE will continue to do the heavy lifting until 2025 when many mobile operators will have substantially switched to 5G networks.

But even then, much of the 5G groundwork will rely heavily on 4G/LTE infrastructure.

Global telecommunications giant Huawei says that this makes a good case for governments and telcos to continue expanding their 4G/LTE capacity and infrastructure.

Even though 5G technology may transform our digital lives in ways we have never imagined, mobile operators are aware that it will not be a cheap endeavour.

Network upgrade remains the most capital-intensive exercise for mobile operators. Last year alone telco giant Safaricom spent over Ksh 36 Billion to drive up additional 4G coverage.

Safaricom’s boss Mr Peter Ndegwa says that this year the telco wants to reach 100 per cent of the population with 4G coverage.

Mohamed Madkour, VP of global wireless networks marketing and solutions at Huawei says that expanding 4G/LTE capacities will reduce the amount of money needed to switch on 5G in the near future.

Special Read:

Mr John Wahome, says it is hard to forget the day the nation woke up to the Baragoi horror, where 42 police officers were massacred.
But it is poor mobile connectivity that slowed down military emergencies. Read how a telecommunications mast is now complementing the work of security agencies to end the trail of violence that comes with cattle raids and retaliatory attacks.

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