4G, or fourth-generation, networks offer companies — particularly those managing a team of mobile workers, like field techs — a way to tap into super-high-speed networks. But what exactly does that mean for enterprises, and how can it be utilized to reshape field service?
To start with, 4G is often a misunderstood concept. It is a wireless network that uses a new spectrum of radio frequencies, and allows for much faster Internet data connections — up to 10 times the speed of 3G networks, in some cases (the minimum 4G speed is 100 mbs per second).
The first U.S. 4G networks were introduced in 2010 by the U.S.’ four main carriers, and are becoming much more common, especially in larger metropolitan areas. But not every carrier’s network is equal.
Sprint led the pack by being the first to release a “4G network” called WiMAX. It was only a small improvement from 3G, but Sprint slapped a 4G title on it anyway. AT&T and T-Mobile later placed 4G labels on their networks called HSPA+, which is like 3G service with a boost — but still not quite the real deal.
It wasn’t until Verizon released its 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network that 4G was truly elevated to a new standard. The LTE network provided significantly quicker wireless speeds. AT&T quickly followed suit, launching its own version (though Verizon has taken a lead in building out its network).
Users need a 4G-enabled phone or tablet, plus access to a 4G network, to be able to tap into 4G speeds. Make sure any new mobile devices your team purchases are 4G-equipped — even if your market hasn’t gone 4G yet, it soon will.
4G and Field Service
High-speed wireless networks have the potential to be a game-changer for field service operations. The ability to access streaming or live video (without waiting for those annoying buffer periods) opens up all sorts of opportunities for repair or installation jobs. Imagine a technician being able to call up a how-to video from a tablet to tackle a tough or unusual repair. Or using video conference to diagnose and fix a problem from afar.
Quick and fast access to social networking is another increasingly popular tool for service techs on the go. Apps like Salesforce Chatter, or even Facebook and Twitter, allow teams to stay connected and send quick updates on customer service issues throughout the day. Further, 4G offers better connections to cloud-based servers, where more and more companies are storing important documents like contracts, records, and even instructional manuals.
But the bottom line is 4G will save time. Technicians can access what they need more efficiently — and that means more time actually getting the job done.
More: Survey: Field Service Companies Moving Toward Tablets.