Is 4G really 4th gen?

December 14, 2010 | By | Reply More

The thing with marketing and technology is that they both need each other to grow, but they rarely get along. So, when MetroPCS launched the first 4G service in the US, and when Verizon launched it’s own 4G LTE network, with coverage in so many metropolitan areas, quite breathtaking speeds by all accounts, and when the other large players like AT&T are going to launch their own 4G networks, exactly what kind of network will they be launching? What are T-Mobile and Spring actually offering?

The answer is, certainly not a 4G network. It might have suited everyone better if the ITU (the people that make the telecommunications standards) asked first, but the way things came about, 4G right now is not 4G. It’s actually 3G LTE, Long-Term Evolution, and it’s quite a notch higher than the so called 3.5G networks.

These are cutting edge technologies nonetheless. The 4G specification from ITU was only recently formalized and the current state of affairs seems somewhat fluid and quite active, since there are many protocols and specifications that make up a real 4G network, as well as a very fast-paced and challenging roadmap by the ITU, that when followed to the letter will really bring a hundredfold increase of speeds in the wireless broadband world, since from the first high-speed mobile networks that offered a little under 1Mbps of connecting speeds at best, 4G wireless connectivity networks in 2015 will offer a minimum of 100Mbps, with stationary users enjoying wireless links with 1Gbps of bandwidth.

The numbers might seem crazy, but they are real, and the technology and network specifications are already available. The real challenge will be the uproar that will follow the availability of such networks, and whether or not telecommunications carriers will jump on the 4G bandwagon as eagerly as consumers might hope.

You should keep in mind that mostly European carriers jumped on the 3G bandwagon too early and found out the hard way that no-one really cared whether or not they had invested billions of euros in  not-that-fast, not-that-cheap, not-that-indispensable networks. But this, with the deployment of LTE networks already announced by major carriers such as AT&T, Verizon’s LTE network making a dramatic, well-received so far entrance, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

The reason is broadband land-lines have been around for some time, time enough for consumers and the industry to grow along each other, with prices going lower and speeds going higher. But there are limits to land-based technology that are not easy to go around. How many miles of optic fiber could AT&T for instance deploy, in what time-frame, with what cost?

But wireless technology forgoes many of these problems. With mobile devices rising ever higher as today’s must-have gadget and tool, their capabilities bridging the gap between a phone and a laptop, it seems it is the right time to offer wireless connectivity at least up to par with land-line broadband connectivity, and in some cases even better. With the right prices and large coverage, it won’t be long before people forget their land-line completely in favor of complete wireless freedom and speed.

Category: News

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