4G in 2011: Change Is Coming, Yankee Group Says

The Yankee Group has released a new report predicting 4G-related developments for 2011. The big message, however, is that significant adoption won't start until 2012.

As 2011 nears, a new, free report from the Yankee Group is offering 13 predictions on the significant developments that 4G is likely to drive in the new year. The general message here is: slow, then fast. As with 3G, deployments and consumer interest will arrive incrementally, but once the speed and, so, power of 4G is understood-Yankee Group expects 4G to lay a foundation for the "fundamental reshaping of the telecom industry and commerce as a whole"-reaction will be swift.

For the purpose of the report, LTE (long-term evolution), WiMax and HSPA+ are regarded as 4G technologies.

Topping the firm's predictions list is that "4G will be a drop in the ocean." Translation: Most Americans still won't really get it. By the end of 2011, says Yankee, only .04 percent of all mobile lines will be 4G, penetration will be .33 percent and consumer awareness of 4G will remain "stubbornly low."

"Until customers fully appreciate the link between a new wireless network technology and the superior user experience it delivers, their interest in upgrading will naturally be muted," states the report.

Beyond 2011, however, things will pick up, with consumer awareness expected to exceed 50 percent during 2012.

Yankee's expected "killer device" for 2011-another prediction-will be the hotspot. Before hotspots, multi-device users needed to deal with multiple plans. With new devices able to offer a 4G hotspot to a host of other devices, however, the hassle for consumers is decreased-though revenues for operators will dip-and speeds will increase.

"Four devices sharing a 14-21MB connection will still find performance far superior than that experienced individually on a 3G connection," states the report.

Far from a positive, another Yankee Group prediction is that a "denial-of-service attack will take a 4G network down." And that's not referring to overwhelming demand.

"What we're predicting is an outage that's the result of malicious intent," states the report, describing a scenario ripe for disaster: an architecture that's more vulnerable than a traditional one, operators hurrying to deploy, corners being cut, with the expectation of retrofitting stronger security measures, and a largely unproven technology.

Clean-up costs, says Yankee, which would include attention to the network, as well as customer care and media relations, would start at $10 million, though escalate higher, when lost subscribers and depressed stock prices are considered in.

"These losses are particularly painful since the migration to 4G represents a rare opportunity to steal share for operators that play their cards right," states the report. "A massive DoS outage just as momentum is building could squander that opportunity."

Still another prediction is for increased power to head to the mobile giant currently enjoying a lucrative 2010: Google. The maker of the Android operating system, predicts Yankee, "will take the wheel in mobile data." In 2010, explains the report, Google proved three things: its ability to create a popular platform, its leadership in online marketing and its knack for making gobs of money. Exemplifying this, Google announced in 2010 that its mobile search queries had increased by five times in just two years.

"More bandwidth means more data traffic, and Google is the most successful company at monetizing that traffic," states Yankee.

The report additionally spells out the winners for each prediction, as well as which companies will be on their losing end. Its prediction that "4G will fail to win the enterprise" puts enterprises on the losing end and slates Sprint as a big winner. And the prediction that "4G users will spend twice as much time on the mobile Web as their non-4G counterparts" taps companies such as Wal-Mart, Jet Blue, Jumptap and Apple to benefit, while Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile-which, amazingly, currently don't offer mobile Websites-will lose out.

In conclusion, says Yankee, the big 4G news for 2011 is that 4G's full effects won't be experienced in 2011. However, "companies across the industry need to position themselves for the coming changes."