Everything You Need To Know About 4G

By on April 29, 2010, 6:00 AM
While most of us are used to getting high speed Internet connections at home, the office or even the local coffee shop, once we are on the road those high speeds have to stay behind. With 4G the promise is that you can get real mobile broadband to go. In this piece we are going to tell you all about the technology and its benefits, who offers it or plans to, how much it costs, and the gear you need to enjoy the next generation of wireless broadband today.

But first, some background: 4G is the short name for fourth-generation wireless, the stage of mobile communications that will enable things like IP-based voice, data, gaming services and high quality streamed multimedia on portable devices with cable modem-like transmission speeds. It's a successor to 2G and 3G wireless, whereby the first signified the shift from analog to digital transmissions, bringing data services like SMS and email to mobile phones for the first time, and the second refers to the advent of things like global roaming as well as higher data rates.

There are a number of standards and technologies pertaining to each wireless generation -- GSM, cdmaOne, GPRS, EDGE, CDMA2000, UMTS (also marketed as 3GSM), HSDPA, among others. For practical reasons, we won't be dwelling on the technicalities of each term and instead will move onto the ones that involve our topic of interest here: 4G.

Read the complete article.

User Comments: 16

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LightHeart said:

Great article, thanks for the education.

Guest said:

Indeed, thank you for the great article.

Now I know a little more about 4G and ever 3G, also the 4G chart is really a plus.

Thank you

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

WOW great article.

Although it is a little depressing to see phones in the works with as much processing power as my 5 yr old laptop :P. In a few years I think I might have to get on the mobile bandwagon.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Excellent article - I've passed it on to a slew of people.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Interesting! So much marketing sales hype into 2G, 3G and soon to be 4G. None really no better than 802.11g or 802.11n when it reaches 4G. Should 5G or 6G really make the Cellular industry shine in broadband communication when it comes to streaming media data? Time will tell..

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

With 4G the promise is that you can get real mobile broadband to go.
I didn't see this in the article, but a BIG difference in 4G is the simultaneous read/write is where the improved bandwidth comes from --

3G is like ethernet half-duplex (write-then-read-then-write) whereas

4G is like ethernet full-duplex (read and write at the same time).

Guest said:

So what's the latency? Currently, the latency with 3G is horrible and is what gives me pause to consider ditching broadband cable.

Guest said:

AT&T let's you talk and surf at the same time. Will Sprint's 4G let you do the same?

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

IMO, that is not a 4G issue, but a service protocol from the provider.

For example, the new iPhone is getting multitasking (ie doing more than one task at the same time).

The reference to iPhone does not really imply hardware support;

it's just a delivery opportunity to sell more hardware by restricting a hi priority feature provided by the software. MS does this all the time too.

Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

Per the article, because current generation (WiMAX) 4G devices will carry a separate 3G chip dedicated to voice, there shouldn't be a problem handling both data and voice at the same time as long as the hardware supports it, like jobeard just said.

Guest said:

I have Clear Wimax currently and while the speeds are decent (3mbps avg down and 2mbps average up).... the latency is bad for voip or gaming... I get about 200-400ms on average.. until they fix the latency, it won't replace cable/fiber.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

I have Clear Wimax currently and while the speeds are decent (3mbps avg down and 2mbps average up).... the latency is bad for voip or gaming... I get about 200-400ms on average.. until they fix the latency, it won't replace cable/fiber.

hmm; Gaming via a cell phone connection? I wouldn't expect that to be a viable choice, as

some DSL and Cable users suffer from the latency issue and cell phone links are far less robust.

ExamsExpert said:

Thanks for hard work to write and share this article. appreciated :)

ultragrey said:

I just wonder what all these new technologies are meant for? They have all the glory and glittering but at the end of the day it's all about profit question. Have we entered an eternal race to buy the best and the latest? Pardon me if the post seem disappointing but what's the choice?

Guest said:

Great article!! But i wonder that if more users start to use the 4G tech even at home then what will happen to the wired internet service providers ?

Isnt that a issue to worry by wired internet service providers?

Second issue is ,if i could get the speed of 1gb/sec then why would i require any kind of wired internet? i will always use the wireless. this will overload the wireless network and i will have to compromise with the speed.

Can the author answer my concern!

Matthew Matthew, TechSpot Staff, said:

Worry about what? I'm hardly an expert on the subject (and I'm not the author) but a few things come to mind:

  • Wireless providers can barely match the low-end cable speeds I got in 2004. Legitimate 4G speeds are a ways off.
  • Wireless networks are pricier to maintain (or so I assume), so wired connections will offer subscribers better value.
  • Wired connections are inherently more secure because they aren't broadcasting data over the air -- highly appealing.
  • Wired providers already have the monopolistic advantage. Just look at ClearWire struggling to make headway.
  • Not only do they have the monopolistic advantage of Internet subscriptions, but that service is bundled with others.
  • Wired providers are profitable and can diversify when/if necessary (through partnerships, acquisitions or plain old R&D).
  • ...They kind of already are. For instance, Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks are ClearWire investors.
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