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International 4G negotiations could create more legal jobs

Posted by: Laurence Simons 12/10/12

Oh, jeez, 4G. Ever since the first brick-like mobile phones were introduced in the 1980s, scientists have been inventing newer and ever more expensive ways for us to fire microwaves through our own heads while ordering pizza or rendering our hands twisted mangled stumps from doing too much texting. And the landscape of telecommunications has been dominated in 2012 by two gigantic alphanumeric symbols, looming on the horizon, casting a shadow over us all: '4' and 'G'.

In answer to your question (swinging in the dark here but something along the lines of "what in the heck is 4G?"), 4G is this: it's the fourth generation of mobile communications standards, which promises to offer broadband-like internet speeds to mobile handsets. Also it is something to do with radio spectrums. It means you can stream TV onto your iPhone, basically, as though you didn't already look at it enough.

Why this is important: because firms are quite heatedly duking it out for first dibs on the technology the world over, and that means those in legal jobs need to be on hand to make sure companies play nice. UK amalgam Everything Everywhere - forged from the dust of Orange and T-Mobile, and hereby referred to as EE - won the race to become the first 4G provider as regulated by Ofgem back in August, but it got messy, quickly. In short, networks needed a clutch of 1800MHz licences before they had enough of the spectrum to feasibly operate a new data network, and EE was the first to grab up the requisite number of tickets to the 4G lottery and won the race to become the first network approved by Ofgem to roll out 4G services across the UK. But then pretty much every other network kicked off.

But forget all those angry British networks and their lack of 4G: the Brazilian announcement of LTE roll out made this week was much more civil. As TelecomLead reports, Telefonica subsidiary Vivo has partnered up with Ericsson to launch 4G services in select regions of Brazil including Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Bahia. And it's the second 4G LTE win for Ericsson in Brazil, as the provider looks to corner the emerging market for superfast mobile internet connections.

"We are honoured to be chosen once again to cooperate with Vivo, supporting their network evolution and innovation," said Ericsson Latin America and the Caribbean vice president Eduardo Ricotta. "The evolution of mobile networks is a fundamental step toward the advent of the Networked Society in Brazil."

And rollout of technologies such as 4G isn't just important in Brazil. With Facebook announcing this week that it had edged past the one billion user mark, everyone did a quick headcount and figured out that a large number of those users were in emerging nations in Africa and South America, primarily accessing the website through their mobile. In countries such as Ghana, mobile users can access the site without any hit on their data usage as mobile operators use Facebook sort of like a gateway drug to get more mobile users online.

For lawyers in private practice and in-house alike, now would be a good time to brush up on what 4G is as negotiations in various other territories go on. And remember, you have a choice - play nice, like in Brazil, or make it difficult like in the UK. Suggestion: go with the former.