How 4G changes the user experience

As LTE signals the next wave of mobile connectivity technology, operators and content providers are busy exploring how the introduction of 4G services changes how users interact with the world wide web while on the go.

Faster mobile speeds of course mean that consumers will be able to use the same services that they currently do more quickly and on a larger scale. However, there is also scope beyond that, as discovered at a roundtable hosted by the UK’s only 4G operator EE and moderated by Informa Telecoms and Media’s chief research officer Mark Newman.

One interesting area of innovation is in enhancing the social element of content consumption. With faster mobile speeds, users are not only able to consume audio and video content more reliably and at a higher quality, there is also scope to share more with your friends about what you are consuming.

Online music streaming service provider Deezer is one firm keen to exploit the social opportunity. As Mark Foster, UK MD of Deezer explained, the firm has agreed tie-ups with one of EE’s brands Orange, as well as social networking giant Facebook, in a bid to make streaming music a more social experience.

“We’ve already taken steps to bring social aspects to our service; our users can share playlists with their friends on Facebook already, for example. 4G is only going to take that further,” he said.

Jane Weedon, head of future media at the BBC, was also on the panel and admitted that there is still room to grow the social element of the firm’s iPlayer service.

“People aren’t really using social functionalities extensively on iPlayer yet, they don’t often take to Facebook to publicise how they’ve just watched an old episode of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’, for example,” she said.

When asked whether the broadcaster is looking into the prospects of facilitating real-time communication between friends streaming the same programme, she acknowledged that this could be an opportunity.

“It’s not something that we are going to force, but if the ecosystem evolves to facilitate these types of services, we will look into integrating them with our offering.”

Also among participants at the roundtable was mobile gaming company Gameloft’s country manager for UK and Ireland David Whitby. He explained that while gaming experience improves with 4G – as there is more scope in the area of multiplayer gaming – the barriers remain.

“When you look at where people tend to play games on their mobile, it’s in areas where there is limited connectivity, such as on the train,” he explained. “Of course, when you go through a tunnel, you lose that connection. You can cache a video that you’re streaming, but you can’t cache a real-time multiplayer game.”

He added that there are certain game scenarios, such as popular app Draw Something, which supports multiplayer gaming that is not in real time, and said that Gameloft will explore and develop other ways to make the most out of the benefits that 4G brings.

However, according to Ed Smith, product director at online publisher Infomedia, the key benefit of LTE technology is that it improves the reliability of the network.

“Rather than dropping from 3G or 3.5G to 2.5G in bad signals areas, you drop from 4G to 3G,” he explained. “And that is still good enough to do things that you want to do online.”

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