I remember the day clearly – sending my first SMS, twenty years ago when I was working for Ukraine’s (then) largest mobile operator, Ukrainian Mobile Communications (now Vodafone). Ukraine had just launched its first digital mobile communications GSM network. I was presented with a new mobile handset that could easily fit in my trouser pocket and I could dispose of my belt clip on which my existing brick-sized handset used to hang.
Last month, the three mobile operators offering services in Ukraine, Vodafone, Lifecell and Kyivstar, launched a 4G standard on their networks in Kyiv and a handful of other Ukrainian cities. 4G stands for “fourth generation”, meaning that it will be the fourth generation of mobile wireless communications.
To put that in context, 1G is characterized as the mobile technology of the first mobile phones in the early 1990s. 2G gave us a system capable of carrying text messages between users, while 3G brought along with it the ability for users to browse the internet on their phones. 4G improves the performance of all those activities.
The difference between 3G and 4G is that 4G means you can do everything 3G can but faster and smoother than ever before. Web pages load quicker, you can download content within seconds, while streaming video and music is free of buffering. This includes video calling and wide area wireless voice telephony. 3G also allowed mobiles to let users receive and send emails, get map and SATNAV directions, and download music and videos very quickly on their handsets. 4G can do all this but smarter and faster.
Based on experience across Europe, 4G is set to be the catalyst for a host of new, entertainment focused mobile internet services, the like of which would have been unimaginable just a few short years ago. Ukraine was, however, the last country in Europe to be without 4G. There are reasons for this, which I may focus more attention on in a future article.
4G Push for Ukraine’s Economic Growth
While the first Ukrainian cities begin to discover 4G, it is high time to assess the opportunities that its launch will bring to Ukraine. As 4G works at a lower frequency than 2G and 3G, it can easily penetrate walls and other constructions, thereby providing better all-round coverage. The World Bank described high-speed Internet as a key driver of economic growth, creating jobs and improving interaction between people.
The growth of internet penetration by 10% increases GDP per capita by 1.38%. This occurs because the high-speed Internet helps to improve the efficiency of business processes. There is also evidence that the increase in penetration of broadband Internet in the OECD countries by 1% ensures growth of business productivity by 0.13%. As the Internet exerts a big influence on growth rates, driving economic growth, and positively affects people’s integration, interaction and living standards, 4G is definitely an important step towards Ukraine’s economic well-being, which can and, obviously, will make a strong contribution to GDP growth.
Recharging Ukraine’s Mobile Telecoms
Apart from 4G, Ukraine needs other drivers which can take the mobile telecom industry to a qualitatively new level. In such a case, integration into the EU Digital Single Market is vital. It will help to adopt and apply to mobile telecom networks the same rules as other European mobile telecom operators face. The harmonization of Ukraine’s mobile telecom legislation with European standards and the liberalization of the communications industry are exactly what Ukraine wants and should strive to achieve. To make it happen, the respective Ukrainian authorities should also conduct bilateral negotiations with EU mobile telecommunications operators with a view to a mutual reduction of wholesale rates to the level established in Europe.
The Mobile Telecom Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, uniting leading telecom operators, is actively working to create favorable conditions for Ukraine’s mobile telecom industry and opportunities for the development of new digital services. We will continue pushing our efforts to help Ukraine move with the times. The first step is the 4G launch. We congratulate mobile telecom operators with this landmark. Let us enjoy the speed and uninterrupted connectivity of 4G together.