4G Speeds and Why No One Has Them
4G is the fourth generation of cellular communications and is the next step in cell phone technology after 3G. Today, most companies function off of “advanced” 3G networks for their so-called 4G. It can be argued that what many service providers offer the public is, in fact, “pre-4G” or “3.5G” or “3.9G”. However, the plan for most cell companies is to be able to upgrade their systems to complete 4G standards within the coming years.
4G promises two things: that the data speeds of the cell phones will be much faster (up to 10 times faster than 3G), and that areas not previously serviced will be able to have decent phone and data coverage in their areas. At this point in time, internet providers in my area are limited, and the advancement of 4G technology may soon bring broadband speeds to this region via mobile networks.
What Is True 4G?
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there are very high-speed requirements for truly 4G services. High mobility communication (i.e. from a moving car or train) should have a high-end speed of 100 Mbps. Low-mobility and stationary use should have high-end speeds of 1 Gbps. Yes, 1 gigabit per second! Speeds this high are not even attainable for most home users.
There are two formats the ITU designates as true 4G:LTE Advanced and WiMAX2. While neither of these are currently readily available on the market, internet providers in my area and around the nation offer their predecessors LTE and WiMAX (along with HSPA+).
Breaking Down the 3 Networks
HSPA+ is an update to its predecessor, HSPA. While HSPA+ offers faster speeds than previously available on the HSPA network, it uses the same technology. While fast, HSPA+ cannot be upgraded to meet IMT-Advanced’s requirements for true 4G. What this means is that actual 4G speeds cannot be accomplished with HSPA+.T-Mobile and AT&T’s current 4G utilizes the HSPA+ network. AT&T has plans in place to rollout the use of LTE networks (which are upgradable to 4G standards) for its future 4G service.
Long Term Evolution, or LTE, is close to 4G, but the technology does not completely encompass all requirements. However, when many people think about 4G, LTE comes to mind. It is the system that is being used by Verizon. As mentioned, AT&T also has plans to rollout widespread use of the LTE network for their 4G services. Also, many of the European countries use LTE because it is upgradable to LTE advanced. Carriers like the idea of LTE because once LTE Advanced becomes available it will be easy to upgrade. AT&T and Verizon plan to have complete LTE technology in place by 2013.
WiMAX is the technology that is being used by Nextel, Sprint, and Clearwire in the US. In Canada, WiMAX is also the most favorite surface. Sprint’s 4G network includes Clearwire4G data network in combination with Sprint’s 3G voice network. While technically not completely for 4G, Sprint is definitely the closest model for a 4G network.
4G is the next biggest thing for cell phone technology, because it has the capability to be extremely fast and possibly make home broadband obsolete. However, true 4G is still a ways off. When all is said and done, 4G should be able to deliver speeds of 1 Gbps in the home and 100 Mbps on a mobile level. When and if these speeds ever come to fruition, it’ll make today’s data speeds seem like yesterday’s dial-up.
This was a guest post by Blake Sanders. With a strong background in technical news and information, he writes on behalf of broadband comparison site Broadband Expert. Blake’s specialties are internet providers in my area and mobile broadband. Note: Photo courtesy of lge via FlickR Creative Commons and Forbes.com.