Don’t be baffled by acronyms and technical terms – David Robertson puts mobile technology into plain language
The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System is the 3G network that most mobile phones operate on. When the 3G spectrum was made available in the UK in 2000, a government auction for licences raised £22.5 billion which the industry initially found difficult to recoup. The emergence of smartphones and mobile internet has since made 3G a worthwhile investment, but now even faster networks are required.
High-Speed Download Packet Access is an enhanced version of UMTS and has been dubbed 3G+, 3.5G or turbo 3G. Most urban areas in the UK now have access to an HSDPA network, significantly increasing data download speeds and capacity for smartphone users. But not all mobile phones support HSDPA which is usually only available with the latest models of smartphones.
The Long-Term Evolution project – or 4G – is where UMTS and HSDPA will migrate as mobile networks are upgraded. EE was the first telecom operator in the UK to provide this ultra-fast service, but Vodafone, O2 and Three are now rolling out their next generation networks. Rival 4G system, WiMax, uses local wi-fi connections to speed up internet access, but most major telecoms providers have gone with LTE.
Near-Field Communication allows data to be transferred between devices by bringing them close together or touching. The system uses a radio signal to transfer data and one of the anticipated uses for NFC is for contactless payments. The customer would swipe their smartphone or NFC-enabled bank card across a special reader and payment would be made automatically.
The Bluetooth Low Energy system, also known as Bluetooth 4.0, is a rival system to NFC and has been championed by Apple and PayPal. It can only transfer small amounts of data, but can do so over a longer range than NFC. Momentum appears to be with BLE, but it may still be too early to say which system will prevail or whether a hybrid of both emerges.
IaaS, PaaS, SaaS
Infrastructure as a Service is the most basic mobile application, usually developed by a third party, and allows an app to be plugged into a cloud storage system. Platform as a Service includes storage and some automated tools for managing the app. Software as a Service is the most comprehensive product and allows almost total outsourcing of an app’s management.
Mobile Backend as a Service is an addition to app management systems and is a rapidly growing part of the market. It is similar to PaaS and SaaS, but uses standardised application programming interfaces (APIs) to link apps to cloud storage, social networks and push notifications. It offers more flexibility to the app developer than traditional SaaS products, but requires less ongoing management than PaaS.
Mobile High-definition Link standards allow mobile phones and other gadgets, such as iPads and laptops, to connect to high-definition televisions and other external displays. The MHL standard is set by a consortium of companies that includes Samsung, Sony and Nokia. It was upgraded earlier this year to allow mobile devices to play on multiple screens and improve remote-control functions.
Mobile Device Management allows a third party to control a mobile phone or tablet. Most company IT departments use MDM to ensure employee’s input a password to access their phone, but it can also be used to monitor application downloads, dictate what online information can be viewed and even wipe the phone’s memory. Mobile Application Management allows control of certain functions, such as e-mail or calendars.
The idea of the “work phone” is being replaced by Bring Your Own Device. Only a couple of years ago, employees of large companies would typically be lumbered with a work phone they may not like or have both a work and personal phone. Companies, particularly in emerging markets, are now more open to the idea of BYOD and this has led to an expansion of MDM and MAM systems.