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Does 4G takeup affect network maintenance jobs?

22/10/13 Adam Walker Director

Britons are amongst the fastest in the world to adopt superfast 4G broadband networks, according to one of the main UK providers, EE. More than a million EE customers alone use the technology which is transforming the way phone and tablet users access the internet.

It is also having a positive effect on the availability of network maintenance and setup jobs, too. As with any new technology, its spread is still relatively thin, with vast swathes of the country not connected to a 4G network. Even the market leader, EE, cannot claim to have total access everywhere in the UK where it currently covers the homes and businesses of more than 60 per cent of the UK population, on target to reach 98 per cent by the end of 2014, the company recently said. The two competing networks, O2 and Vodafone, have even less coverage – and are keen to catch up quickly.

Vodafone UK recently announced it was launching 4G in Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield and with the service coming to Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester by the end of October, and the company is pushing towards 98 per cent population coverage by 2015.

This has benefits for those further up the pipeline in bringing the technology to market. Network setup and maintenance jobs are in high demand as mobile network providers aim to meet the needs of their customers.

Providers are looking for skilled and experienced network maintenance engineers to ensure their new networks reach the boasted speeds required of superfast networks.

What’s more, upgrades to the existing 3G network infrastructure to enable it to adapt to 4G capability, including the role of the 3GPP Long-Term Evolution (LTE) Standard, will keep demand high.

The doubling of the 4G network capacity ensures the UK’s fastest mobile network will be future-proofed to meet needs of data hungry consumers and businesses, with EE forecasting network traffic to increase by 750% in next three years alone. EE is doubling the amount of 1800MHz spectrum bandwidth dedicated to 4G, from 10MHz to 20MHz. This will give customers increased capacity, and access to some of the fastest mobile speeds in the world.

Professionals with prior experience of LTE’s deployment, particularly in upgrading from 3G to 4G networks, will find plentiful demand for their skills. Those professionals who oversaw the transition from 2G to 3G network capability will be best positioned to offer a watchful eye as Britain becomes a superfast mobile broadband nation, believes a recent Cisco white paper.

Knowledge of the System Architecture Evolution (SAE), the main LTE architecture standard, will be placed at a premium amongst network maintenance employers. Better yet, though the 4G network migration will be taken up quickly by network operators keen to offer the best service possible to customers (meaning plentiful job opportunities), the current scale of the network is so large it will take time to implement.

Even when Britain’s current 3G infrastructure is upgraded, there will be continued employment opportunities for many years for those tasked with maintaining the country’s 4G network. Expertise and experience in 4G network standards, as well as the hardware which provides the network, will be required. Certainly, 4G uptake is transforming the way users access the mobile internet. Its knock-on effect on the network industry benefits workers, too.