The vice president of business for EE (formerly Everything Everywhere), which has launched the UK's first 4G network, believes that this super fast mobile technology is the "final piece of the jigsaw" for small businesses.

Speaking to the IBTImes UK following the launch of the LTE network this morning, Martin Stiven says that 4G will enable businesses to work more flexibly and will solve the problem of moving from a fixed IT infrastructure to something much more flexible.

"What my customers tell me is that there is a pent up demand, because of the huge increase in online applications, social media, cloud computing, all of the things that are happening in IT. You think of the power being put into smartphone devices, the big frustration for businesses in particular, is how do I join the fixed IT world into this super smartphone world."

The answer in Stiven's mind is clear - faster mobile broadband: "4G is the final piece of the jigsaw. It is that infrastructure around Britain that will enable all of those things to come to life and to be truly be taken advantage of."

The UK is lagging behind the likes of the US, Japan and Germany when it comes to rolling out a 4G network, and Stiven believes it is holding back business in this country:

"I think today we are a little bit in the slow lane. A lot of organisations are resisting deploying applications wirelessly because they fear they are not going to work properly because the file size is too big or the experience won't be right. What [4G] does is, it enables a whole range of activites to take place."

The 4G network was switched on this morning in London, Brimingham, Cardiff and Bristol but initially only for testing by EE engineers. "What we want to make sure is that when we launch 4G in the coming weeks, the end-to-end customer experience is absolutely the best it can be," Stiven said.

The company plans on rolling the network out to 16 cities by Christmas, which it says will give 20 million people and businesses access to a 4G network for the first time. By the end of 2013 it hopes to cover 70 percent of the UK, rising to 98 percent by the end of 2014.

Real world

Stiven also outlined how 4G speeds could help in the real world. He spoke about an aerial photography company who took part in EE's 4G trial in Cumbria. Instead of landing the plane and having to go to the office to download the photos they had taken, the photographers could land, wirelessly download the photos and immediately take off again, making the process much more efficient.

"If you think of Britain's small businesses and small business owners, they are time poor and cash poor. What we want to do with 4G is give them more time."

Stiven also believes the current economic woes facing the UK will be allievated by small businesses, which will be hastened by the deployment of 4G. "It is going to be small businesses that are going to drive us out of this recession and be the economic growth engine for the country going forward."

Written by David Gilbert