For IT news junkies like me, the last several weeks have featured a bombardment of iPad-related articles. But instead of regurgitating Apple bullet points, I want to talk about a single feature of the newest generation of tablets such as the iPad that will have a major impact on the US enterprise: Long Term Evolution (LTE) operability.
It's been said that tablets consume content while PCs create it. Streaming audio and video on the go have become very popular among consumer tablet users, and that requires high-speed wireless broadband. In a sense, wireless network expansion is becoming consumer-driven.
Having consumers drive wireless expansion means there are far more individuals demanding 4G networks than there are businesses. Since wireless telecommunication providers will spend the money to build faster networks only when the demand reaches its saturation point, having millions of consumers wanting the service allows for more rapid deployment.
This increased consumer demand is quite a shift for those of us in the United States. Our cellular-based networks used to lag those in Europe and Asia, because the overall demand for wireless networks wasn't there. Our wired infrastructure was well established, and a wire-free network didn't seem necessary. Now that the demand for pure mobility has become mainstream, we're seeing the US creep ahead in terms of wireless access and innovation.
On the other hand, service providers tend to view consumers and enterprise customers very differently, and the pricing structure is slanted toward individuals. That's why we're seeing all these data restrictions and overage charges. This pricing structure was built for individual consumers, not for enterprise customers, which require more regularity in their monthly expenses.
As wireless networks evolve and get faster, they become more desirable for enterprise users, which often require more speed and throughput for their applications. Faster speeds mean heavier use, which means more overage charges. Enterprise budgeting managers will probably struggle for a while to get a handle on how much more data mobile employees will actually consume.
In the end, the growth of 4G networks, however it is driven, should be viewed in a positive light by the enterprise. The popularity of mobile devices such as 4G tablets, as well as consumer demand for speed and coverage, will be incredibly beneficial to enterprises with mobile employees. As long as wireless budgets are adjusted to handle the additional data use by mobile employees, the enterprise should get ready for increased mobile access thanks to consumer-based products like the new iPad.