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4G Will Start Slow, Then Kick Butt

Meanwhile, expect a ‘marketing mess’ … and for consumers to spend more time with Pandora & Slacker

The benefits of 4G won’t be felt in a big way in 2011, but they’re coming nonetheless, according to one study, and bear watching by anyone whose business involves delivery of content in the mobile marketplace.

A report by the Yankee Group states that 2011 promises to be a “big year” for mobile broadband technology as operators “scramble to roll out network upgrades, new devices hit the street and marketing for next-generation services reaches fever pitch. But while many players are eager for 4G to stir excitement, few will reap 4G revenue in 2011.”

Its report, making predictions for the year, is subtitled “4G Fuels the Decade of Disruption.” While anticipating a “slow start” for 4G, the Yankee Group wrote that once it takes hold, “its impact will be swift and profound.”

Here is how the Yankee Group summarized key findings:

It said 4G will only be a “drop in the ocean” next year and that by the end of 2011, the most important 4G technology, LTE, “will account for only 0.04 percent of all mobile lines.” Further, less than a third of enterprise decision-makers believe 4G is important right now.

The hotspot will be the 4G “killer device” because users will gravitate to its simplicity and savings, “reducing 4G subscriptions in the long run.”

The Yankee Group expects a “marketing mess” as operators “slap the ‘4G’ moniker on everything from WiMax and LTE to HSPA+.” It predicted that a denial-of-service attack is likely to take a 4G network down in 2011; that Chinese vendors will grow in importance; and that 4G users will spend twice as much time on the mobile Web as their non-4G counterparts, benefitting companies that invest in mobile websites and free or cheap rich media content.

Mobile video “won’t be the killer 4G app everyone expects,” the report continued; “instead, consumers will spend more time with music services like Pandora and Slacker.” It also believes that 4G will bring the introduction of tiered mobile data pricing models. “Flat-rate pricing will be gone forever.”

And: “Google will take the wheel in mobile data. Currently behind Apple and others in the mobile space, Google will quickly grab the mobile lead as 4G rolls out.”