Derek McManus: Network will switch on cities for a new life in fast lane

Leeds and Bradford will be among the first cities to be switched on to O2’s 4G network on August 29.

Derek McManus.

From this date, our superfast 4G network will be available to some five million people, with the continued nationwide rollout reaching an additional two million people per month until we have 98 per cent coverage of the UK population.

The consumer mobile experience is set to improve dramatically over the coming months and years, so businesses must now learn how they can take advantage of this once-in-a-decade investment in our country’s infrastructure.

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Whether looking to improve the way they sell, advertise, serve their customers or connect with their employees, we’re calling on businesses across the region to and find out exactly how this new technology can transform the way they operate.

The broadest reaching benefit for businesses is 4G’s capability to unshackle employees from the fixed line or wi-fi broadband connections of their offices, creating a workforce that is truly mobile. With speeds five times faster than 3G, employees no longer need to be at their desks to download large files, join a video conference call, or send large pieces of data. So, whether you’re leaving the office early to pick up the kids from school, or spending the day dashing across town with a packed schedule of meetings, you’ll now be able to take care of those important tasks without hassle, while on the move, using nothing more than a mobile or tablet device.

For businesses with many employees, the cumulative benefits of having a well connected workforce are obvious, but there’s just as much scope for improvement to those with only a handful of workers. For example, a self-employed interior designer could save time, while also providing a better service, by being able to download and review plans for a project whilst on site with their client.

In days gone by, plans would be discussed, notes would be taken, and changes made back at the office with hours or even days going by before the client can see an updated version. This is a great example of how 4G can help a small business become more efficient while also offering a greatly improved service to its customers.

For the retail industry, it goes without saying that we’ll see a continued boom in mobile shopping with 4G. More customers will be doing more shopping on their phones than ever before, making it crucial that retailers strengthen their mobile offering.

Many of us already research products on our mobiles while in a shop, whether that’s getting more information or comparing prices. The improved indoor coverage means customers will increasingly use their mobile phones to support their in-store experience.

The speed of 4G will make video easily accessible to mobile users while on the move, making this an ever more important tool for marketing products and services. This doesn’t necessarily mean large-scale companies using expensive promotional videos on their websites, but instead could be a small, independent business posting exciting and easy-to-make new content to their Facebook page or Twitter feed for customers to view on their phones. 4G offers new, more agile ways for businesses to engage their customers.

Sticking with retail, 4G’s superfast speeds will make targeted, location-based promotions even more effective. Customers on the high street will be better connected than ever before and looking for an even more engaging and personalised shopping experience. Retailers can connect with existing and potential customers by sending deals to their mobile before they’ve set foot in the store. The key point here is that 4G provides the opportunity for retailers to create a deeper, more meaningful relationship with their customers.

What I’ve set out here is just a snapshot of the types of products and services that 4G technology has the potential to unlock.

The immediate priority for businesses should be to think about how 4G can enhance their day-to-day operations, whether it’s the way they sell, advertise, serve their customers or connect with their employees. 4G will offer a wealth of opportunities for us all, and it’s down to Leeds and Bradford to lead this innovation.

Derek McManus is chief operating officer of O2.