Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Getting To Know 4G

Like WiFi, mobile wireless is getting faster and enabling more personal and business applications, but the magic behind the mobile telecom space can be murky. Just like 802.11n was a world-shaker in the WiFi realm, mobile telecommunications networks are beginning to experience a significant leap forward in capability. And just like with the "artistic marketing license" taken by WiFi 11n makers (9 times the old stuff! 6 times bigger this and that!), you have to dig through the PR to figure out what's really coming with the new 4G (4th Generation) mobile networks. Let's take a quick look at what's starting to be unleashed in the mobile
network world, as it's impact will be huge.

Let's get this out of the way: Is LTE (Long Term Evolution) the same as 4G? Early versions of LTE may not meet strict 4G definition, and are sometimes described as 3.9G. Production versions of LTE, as will be delivered by Verizon, AT&T, and others are considered 4G. Bottom line- for customers, LTE and 4G are synonymous.

On to the nitty-gritty. Each of the major mobile carriers provides information on what you should expect from their new technology, but the vendor-speak may be hard to digest. Here are some of the more significant points made by Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. Sprint touts speeds up to 10X faster on the 4G compared to 3G, based on average 3G speeds of 600 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps and 4G speeds of 3-6 Mbps. Sprint is shipping 4G products including handsets, mobile hotspot devices, and USB adapters for laptop mobile broadband, but 4G is currently limited to several dozen major cities.

Verizon's LTE promises 5-12 Mbps down and 2-5 Mbps up, but also makes a point of telling the story of fundamentally better technology to go with higher speeds. As with 802.11n WiFi, Verizon's LTE will use MIMO antenna technology to overcome the ills of signal multi-path, and also claims that LTE's latency will only be 1/4 of 3G's. Verizon also details improved security enhancements including improved security and seamless international roaming in their 4G sales glossy. Like Sprint, Verizon has test markets where LTE will undergo shake-down in major metropolitan areas.

AT&T also touts its infrastructure investment to enable its large customer base to achieve "peak theoretical speeds of 7.2 Mbps" in LTE press releases. Improvements include thousands of new cell sites, fresh fiber optic cell site network back-haul upgrades, and the leveraging of newly-available spectrum for better in-building penetration over 3G.

  • 1