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Remote working requires wider mobile broadband coverage

Mobile internet innovations should help support the UK's ever-growing community of remote workers.

UK professionals have an increasing range of options for remote working, meaning life away from the office is more productive than ever. Courtesy of major advances in mobile technology – and the development of the cloud as an IT delivery model – businesspeople are able to work extremely effectively on the move. Without doubt, mobile broadband has been the catalyst for this change. It has opened up the wider world to corporate organisations, allowing professionals to access web-based files and applications from virtually any location.

Business people have significant choice when it comes to mobile working devices – with an array of laptops, smartphones and media tablets available to support their daily activities. And the mobile internet bears little resemblance to that of a few years ago, where unreliable, sporadic coverage was the norm rather than the exception. Internet service providers (ISPs) have been eager to capitalise on greater demand for mobile services by investing in their networks, and the result is that subscribers can trust their connections to offer continued web access.

With the demands placed on businesspeople growing all the time, the importance of reliable mobile broadband has become increasingly evident. Since remote working has clear benefits in terms of cost reduction and productivity, more people are seeking to take advantage with each passing day. The obvious impact of this is significantly increased pressure on 3G mobile networks, which are already beginning to creak under the volume of data traffic. Without doubt, the existing mobile broadband infrastructure cannot cope with the rate of smartphone and tablet growth currently being witnessed in the UK.

But, crucially for remote workers, as 3G networks near saturation point, new solutions are being developed to sustain and improve the quality of mobile services. Media regulator Ofcom recently announced plans to conduct 800MHz and 2.6GHz radio spectrum auctions, enabling UK ISPs to compete for 4G service licences. Long-term evolution broadband technology is already being used across Europe to relieve network strain, and increase the broadband speeds available to mobile workers, and will soon be arriving in Britain.

When 4G launches in the UK – most likely in 2013 – Ofcom believes the capacity of mobile broadband services will increase by more than 200 per cent. Clearly this is good news for businesspeople, many of whom are increasingly reliant on their mobile devices to manage their daily workload. Dr Stephen Unger, Ofcom's chief technology officer, explained that early 4G mobile networks with standard configurations will be 3.3 times more efficient than today's standard 3G networks, and 5.5 times so by 2020. "4G mobile technologies will be able to send more information than 3G, for a given amount of spectrum," he stated. "This increased efficiency means that 4G networks will be able to support increased data rates and more users."

Now that professional people have experienced the benefits of mobile working – on the Tube, in hotel rooms, and while waiting for meetings to commence – it is simply not possible to revert to more traditional ways of working. As much as mobile apps have revolutionised the consumer IT experience, they have helped change the way business works. The corporate world now operates 24/7 and waits for nobody. So if professional people are not immediately contactable, and able to think on their feet, opportunities may quickly pass them by.

While mobile broadband cannot yet compete with fixed connections in terms of speed and quality, for remote working, it is more than adequate for getting the job done. Businesspeople on the move need quick access to their email accounts, and potentially shared files for collaboration purposes. Rarely will they be required to perform large data transfers, or download hefty documents, which is where greater bandwidth comes in handy. So as long as ISPs are able to keep one step ahead of the market, and ensure their networks can cope with future data demand, working on the move will become the norm for an increasing number of people.