The good, the bad, and the ugly

5 minutes

There is fierce competition for 4G world domination. The deployment of 4G technologies acros...

By Christopher Lamb

Asia Managing Director

There is fierce competition for 4G world domination. The deployment of 4G technologies across the globe is moving fast; so, just how far have networks come since 4G was announced in 2002? And how have they impacted on different regions? 4G is a seriously ‘hot topic’. It is everywhere, marketed by everyone! It’s a phenomenon. But what kind of impact has it actually had? And where?  Next generation technologies are life changing for cultures, economies and employment across the globe. But who actually has access to 4G, and how are all the different the networks performing around the world?


4G stands for Fourth Generation communication technology and is the fastest communication network for mobile devices. Unlike its predecessor 3G, which uses spread spectrum, 4G wireless communication involves mobile communications using VoIP. It is due to the wireless data transfer through Internet Protocols (IP) maximizing packet data switching, that 4G is capable of achieving higher speeds. This process allows 3G network to deliver quicker data transfers at a lower cost. Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is the newest and fastest type of 4G network; the other major networks are HSPA+ and WiMAX.


4G is fast, over 5 times faster than 3G, with LTE being marketed at up to 10 times faster. It allows quicker streaming of larger files and also performs much better within the concrete jungle of buildings, which is great for big cities.


Fastest Country With LTE: Australia (24.5Mbps)

Fastest Network With LTE: Claro Brazil (27.8Mbps)

Most Improved country for LTE Speed:  Japan (66% LTE improvement)

Network With Best Coverage: Tele2 Sweden (93% coverage)

Country with Best Coverage: South Korea (91% average coverage)


Research shows that not all LTE networks are created equal; indeed there is an extremely broad range of experience across both metrics of speed and coverage. Only about a quarter of networks surveyed by Open Signal earlier this year achieve both. There remains a great deal of work before 4G lives up to its full potential. [1]


KT was the initial pioneer of 4G with its WiMAX service launched in South Korea in 2005, since then over 70 countries have followed with the rollout of LTE. Globally, networks have varying levels of success and sit within the following 4 areas;

Poor coverage and fast speed: CLARO BR in Brazil; Orange in France; in Germany; O2.UK in UK; I TIM in Italy; Telia in Sweden; EE in UK; YES OCTUS in Australia; Telstra Mobile in Australia; Bell in Canada.

Good coverage and fast speed: olleh in South Korea; SmarTone HK in Hong Kong; SoftBank in Japan; Rogers Wireless in Canada; 3 in Hong Kong; Telenor in Sweden; Tele2 SE in Sweden; SKTelecom in South Korea; KDDI in Japan; Tele2 SE in Sweden.

Good coverage but slow speed: MetroPCS in USA; TELCEL in Mexico; AT&T in USA; Verizon in USA.

Poor coverage and slow speed: Sprint in USA; GLOBE in Philippines; VIVO in Brazil; NTT DOCOMO in Japan; T-Mobile in USA; in Germany; MegaFon in Russia.

These four areas form an overview of global LTE network performance, combining both time on LTE and download speed to build a picture of true network performance across the world. As the only major market to have reached 100% 4G population coverage, South Korea is the world’s most advanced 4G market, with penetration as a percentage of total connections passing the 50% mark in Q4 2013. This compares to around a quarter 4G user penetration in Japan and the US. Australia has the fastest average LTE speeds in the world, with the USA and the Philippines averaging the slowest. Claro Brazil is the fastest LTE network in the world, averaging an exceptionally fast 27.8Mbps but still has a long way to come as it hasn’t been rolled out across the country completely.


More than 150 carriers in over 70 countries already have or are committed to deployments and trials. Telecoms is one of the most competitive markets in the world, driving economic growth across the board and the ‘The Ugly’ stems from the implicit need to have to protect the current competitive landscape by mandating the number of operators that will provide service. Despite over two decades of service evolution, the need for regulatory intervention on the number of permitted competitors is a reminder of just how young this industry still is. Since First Point Group has worked in the telecoms recruitment industry the job market change has considerably. These cyclical waves of emerging technologies and demand across different continents are driving engineers and contractors to develop skills and learn newer technologies, leading to increased demand for employees with 4G technical capabilities.

Studies have also shown that as broadband penetration increases, so does GDP growth. The increased economic activity in any country will result in an increase in employment, specifically in the technical sector. It’s good news for emerging countries as, for example in Pakistan, it’s estimated that about 1 million job opportunities will be created with the 3G and 4G launch. Next time, we’ll explore the effect next generation technologies have on global employment and recruitment.


5G will follow 4G but there is still no industry consensus on what 5G networks will be like when they are eventually deployed. One view is that whereas 3G and 4G were based around ground breaking technologies such as WCDMA and LTE, 5G will integrate new and existing radio-access technologies. Still very much a hypothetical concept, and as we can see from above, 4G is still on a journey, with a significant scope for increase geographically, especially in Africa, which lags behind in terms of advanced cellular technologies, and also in consistency of quality.

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