In a country such as Zambia where internet is generally either hanging on EDGE or 3G, which are not user friendly for the large number of people using the mobile broadband space , there is a need to switch things up and turn over to 4G/LTE networks as soon as possible.
Advantages of 4G/LTE
- Faster: Obviously. The speeds are about 5 – 10 times faster than 3G over long distances so connections are improved dramatically.
- Faster loading : Gone will be the days of watching a page load excruciatingly slow, especially for those who depend on the internet for almost all their work, like us.
- Faster downloads: Download speeds are way faster than on 3G networks and this works well in this era where everything is stored on clouds and people want to share files without having to meet a person to transfer via USB devices. Larger files can be shared easily and much faster.
- Faster streaming: If you’re a fan of streaming videos and music, 4G is perfect because these can be streamed faster, without the much hated ‘buffering’ sign haunting your browsing experience.
- Wider coverage: Compared to other types of networks like WiFi which require users to connect to a hotspot in a given radius, 4G/LTE networks cover a much wider area and can be accessed by more people with compatible devices.
- VoIP: This is simply Voice over Internet Protocol. Others even call it Internet Telephone. 4G/LTE networks support more of this than traditional phone calls or SMS so it becomes much cheaper to make calls online using applications like Skype, Viber or even Facebook. These are much faster to connect and generally much cheaper than using off-net credit to make calls. This is good news for people with friends and relatives in other countries because they no longer have to worry about the phone bill.
It seems like heaven right? There’s always a downside to everything. Here are the cons of 4G/LTE:
- Cost: For the internet service provider (ISP) it is initially a cost to set up because equipment has to be installed that supports that network, and then maintenance has to be done every so often to ensure it has no connectivity problems. Upgrades to servers may also have to be carried out as often as possible to keep things running smoothly. More network towers may have to be erected to support the 4G/LTE network as well. For the consumer, to access the network, there is a need to get a device that is 4G/LTE enabled. That means getting rid of your old phone and getting a new one. A suggestion would be sell it off to raise money.
- Coverage: Despite it working well over larger areas it has not been fully operational in Zambia, limited to only some areas and not accessible to all, so most users still remain dependant on the 3G network.
- Costly Data Bundles: We expect these to rise once entire system is in place. Mobile network operators and other ISPs need a bigger bandwidth to operate on for 4G/LTE to work and hence an increased cost on their part which eventually affects consumers with a hike in internet bundle prices.
- Shorter battery life: Staying online will take its toll on battery lives of devices as transmission will need to occur between antennae to antennae on the 4G network to connect to your device which will use up much of the battery. You might want to consider getting a device that has a large battery, or move with your charger everywhere.
So, yes we have a long way to go before the teething problems of 4G/LTE are sorted out in Zambia, but we can appreciate it especially for its VoIP functionality.