What does the imminent arrival of 4G mean for websites in the UK?

Earlier this month it was announced that the UK’s fourth generation mobile service – 4G – will become available in 16 cities across the UK before the year is out. The provider, Everything Everywhere, says it aims to provide 4G coverage to 98% of the UK by the end of 2013.

Tests are currently being conducted in London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol, with Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Belfast, Hull, Sheffield, Southampton and Derby set to join them in the coming weeks.

Last week Apple announced that its new iPhone 5 will support 4G, while Samsung and HTC plan to offer compatible handsets before the end of this year. Talks are currently being held to speed up the rollout of the service through other mobile networks such as O2 and Vodafone.

This is going to be rolled out fast, and adopted by UK internet users almost immediately. Low internet speeds on the move are soon going to become a thing of the past, and this means the way we build websites is about to change.

It’s likely that mobile phones will become the primary device that people use to access the internet. Though we have considered their use since that first became, restrictions relating to streaming and data usage are going to fade into the background, while mobile compatibility will become a vital issue.

The range of devices that websites are accessed through has been expanding for years. It was once the case that the provision of a stripped down mobile friendly version of your site would suffice. Websites would provide lower resolution graphics and avoid showing data heavy media like video, and that would keep mobile users happy because of the improvement to load times and data usage that it offered.

With the advent of 4G technology, that’s no longer necessary. In fact, users are going to want and expect this kind of content, and websites that don’t offer it are going to begin to look bare and underdeveloped. A far greater amount of audiovisual content will start being used on websites from now on because there will be so few users with internet speeds that can’t cope.

How you provide this content is going to become the new consideration. We see so many websites that use Flash video, and some that are made purely in Flash! Flash doesn’t work on an iPhone, or an iPad, and that’s too great an amount of users to lose. Now that we’re about to overcome mobile access and dataspeed issues, compatibility across all browsers, devices and operating systems should now become the primary focus of anyone that wants to provide a functional website suitable for this new era.

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