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Mobile World Congress: Can 4G extend enterprise IT?

Mobile World Congress has kicked off with a raft of announcements covering new operating systems and apps for smartphones from the likes of Intel, Nokia, Microsoft and Adobe.

Since smartphones make greater use of bandwidth, fourth-generation mobile networks is a big area of interest at this year's event. 4G based on LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology promises to give handset users fast access to multimedia content and extranet applications via smartphones. Operators and equipment manufacturers are starting to show what this technology will offer. For instance, earlier this month O2 and Huawei demonstrated video streaming on a smartphone over an LTE network.

According to Forrester Research, by 2014 there will be 344 million mobile users in Europe, up from 334 million in 2009 - or 84% of the Western European population. The analyst firm has estimated that mobile internet adoption will continue to grow significantly, reaching 39% in 2014. Forrester Research says that more than 40% of European consumers are beginning to use mobile services beyond voice and communication services.

This means businesses will be expected to use 4G to provide mobile services to their customers and fast mobile access to the corporate network for staff. The greater bandwidth will support client applications such as Citrix and other large client applications such as Cognos, said Tony Cripps, senior analyst at Ovum. Such applications, which work well on a local area network today, will benefit from the 100Mbps bandwidth available through 4G.

Applications in certain industries will lend themselves to 4G connectivity, such as providing wireless video-conferencing to field service engineers to enable them to solve problems with support from in-house colleagues, or the transmission of 3D medical images to clinicians in telemedicine.

While IT directors and CIOs develop a business case for 4G networking, operators and network equipment manufacturers are busy creating the necessary infrastructure.

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