Ofcom research shows that 4G mobile networks will give over three times more capacity than 3G networks. However, it warned this would still not meet the growing demand for data.
The watchdog called for more spectrum to be released, the intelligent design of mobile networks to maximize capacity and wider use of small cell technology.
Referring to 'The 4G Capacity Gains' report, Ofcom's chief technology officer Dr Stephen Unger said: ‘The research that we commissioned indicates that early 4G mobile networks with standard configurations will be 3.3 times (230%) more spectrally efficient than today’s standard 3G networks.
'To put this in context, a user on an early 4G network will be able to download a video in around a third of the time it takes today on a 3G network. It is anticipated that this efficiency will increase to approximately 5.5 times (450%) by 2020.’
However, Ofcom added: 'The research revealed that the capacity gain from the increased spectral efficiency of 4G technologies will not on its own be sufficient to meet the expected growth in demand for mobile data.
'As well as using existing spectrum more efficiently, more spectrum itself is also needed, some of which will be gained from the auction of new spectrum at 800MHz and 2.6GHz in 2012.
It added: ‘Finally, mobile networks will also need to be designed intelligently to ensure the best use of spectrum. In particular, the research anticipates a greater use of small cells to meet demand in specific areas.’
The research, carried out by consultancy Real Wireless, analysed a range of 4G technologies, including Long Term Evolution (LTE), LTE Advanced and wireless technology WiMAX, which is similar to Wi-Fi but covers much further distances.
The report also suggested an investigation into introducing small cells, or base stations, in peak demand and dense urban areas, to serve high demand in these locations.
Earlier this year, Ofcom launched a consultation for the auction of the 4G mobile spectrum.
The auction for two spectrum bands, 800MHz and 2.6GHz, totalling 250 MHz of new mobile spectrum, is expected to go ahead, subject to the consultation, early next year.