4G Wireless

Category: Mobile

4G wireless is the fourth generation of cell phone communication technology. Each generation is fundamentally different from earlier ones, and presumably better in ways important to consumers. Read on to learn about the advantages of 4G wireless, and where you can get super-fast 4G mobile today...

4G Mobile Phones

What is 4G Wireless?

The first generation, born in 1981, was analog cellular service. Like analog dial-up modems, 1G cellular service was OK for voice and pretty lousy for data communications. In 1992, digital 2G technology debuted; it was better for email and other text-based data communications but still too slow for multimedia such as video and high-resolution images. 3G technology supplanted 2G in 2002, with data transmission speeds of at least 200 kbps, multimedia support, and more secure and reliable spread-spectrum transmission.

UMB or Ultra-Mobile Broadband (formerly EV-DO Revision C) was the brand name of a 4G project discontinued in 2008. It's objective (never reached) was 275 Mbps download speed and 75 Mbps upload. Flash-OFDM was another flash in the pan stab at 4G. The industry has settled down to LTE technology as the underpinning of the 4G wireless generation, which should offer consumers mobile download speeds of 5 to 10 Mbps, with the promise of even greater speeds in the future.

So where can you get a fast 4G mobile connection today? Sprint Nextel is currently marketing Mobile WiMAX wireless broadband as "4G" on the HTC EVO 4G, but it is better thought of as "3.9G". It doesn't quite meet the official 4G standard in every way, and it's only available in certain metro areas.

Verizon Wireless recently announced they will be offering 4G LTE service for laptop users before the end of 2010 in 38 cities and 60 airports. Mobile phones and tablet devices, likely Android-based, will be rolling out from Verizon in 2011. There are always rumors that Verizon will be offering the iPhone "real soon now" and recent rumblings from Verizon execs seem to both confirm and deny that a Verizon 4G iPhone will be appearing in 2011.

MetroPCS is currently offering 4G LTE coverage in Las Vegas, and plans to add other cities before the end of the year. AT&T and T-Mobile are waiting on the 4G sidelines, with no announced plans to roll out a 4G offering. So iPhone users hoping for a superfast 4G connection, you're out of luck for the foreseeable future.

4G - Worth the Wait?

4G wireless is entirely based upon the Internet Protocol, or IP, the same technology that underpins all Web surfing and other Internet communications. 4G wireless will employ IP packet-switching networks just like the Internet. That means cellular phone carriers will have to upgrade or replace all their infrastructure, so 4G will be rather expensive as it debuts.

But will 4G wireless will be worth the wait, and the price? Yes! Imagine getting cable or fiber optic data speeds through a mobile phone! You'll be able to watch HD movies streamed in real time. Live video chat will be possible thanks to 4G wireless' quality-of-service standards that will keep lips and sound synchronized and moving smoothly. Wireless LAN roaming from hotspot to hotspot, with re-connecting, may be possible with 4G wireless.

Like every generation of wireless tech before it, 4G will not be backward compatible with earlier generations. Entirely new infrastructure will have to be deployed to support 4G wireless. 4G will appear first in densely populated metropolitan areas, and won't be "universal" for several years. And about the time that 4G wireless is fully deployed, we can expect to hear rumors about 5G wireless. The cycle of wireless communication upgrades will not end any time soon.

Have you tried 4G service on a laptop or mobile phone? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "4G Wireless"

Posted by:

08 Oct 2010

Hi Bob,

Full marks for using "Mbps" for megabits per second. Small demerit for using "Kbps" with a capital K for kilobits per second - the prefix for kilo is "k" (lower case), so it's "kbps". It's all to do with the SI nomenclature - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SI_prefix

I'm sure someone told me that proper use of UPPER/lower case was important! ;o)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Guilty as charged! I'm kind of a spelling nerd, and It took me about 40 years to get a handle on "its" versus "it's" so I appreciate the sharp eyes.

Posted by:

Andrew Brown
09 Oct 2010

Yeah we're getting close to Dick Tracy's 6G mobile tech everyday. Glad to see in come.

Posted by:

09 Oct 2010

More of Capitals with units.

"M" for "Mega" is used because "m" was used "milli". Makes a bit of sense to use the large (capital) letter for the large units.

As pure trivia, all units above Mega use capitals when used as a single letter.

Posted by:

Jon S
18 Nov 2011

I've had a 4g USB Wireless modem (UML290) for almost a year now... The 1st few months were an "adventure" because IMHO the software was bug laden. This, in turn, prompted a new version of the VZACCESS module every other month or so. They seemed to have worked out most of the bugs but Verizon hasn't quite fulfilled the salesman's pledge that all the 3g service areas would be 4g by the end of this year.
Given all of that I get reasonably good connections (northern New York, southern Florida) with the device but you can almost see the thing slow down during peak airtime periods.
If/when they do get better & faster I'm probably going to have to up my data limit

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