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tech to watch
What Is It?
In October 2010, the Inter-
Union said all U.S . network
carriers peddling data speeds
as 4G were full of baloney.
The organ ization, which
declared that for mobile tech
toqualify as4G,itmust allow
100 Mbps down loads over
cellu lar networks. But the
term 4G isn’t going away, as
it’s the easiest way for AT&T,
Spri nt, T-Mobile, a nd Verizon
Wireless to communicate that
this is a faster technology
4G data speeds from
the four networks promise
peak speeds up to 12 Mbps in 2011. In real world use, though,
customers can expect 4G speeds from 3 to 8 Mbps. While not
mind-blowing, these speeds are faster than some home Inter net
connections. “Early on, 4G is just going to be 3G, but faster,”
said Peter Jarich, a research director at Current Analysis.
Why It’s Important
The 4G race is on, with all the major carriers hoping to lure
customers with new devices and applications built to leverage
these turbo-charged networks. Sprint uses Clearwire’s Mobile
WiMax technology, withclaimed speeds of3to6Mbpson the
downlink and 1 Mbps uploads. The service was available in
62 markets as of November, with the promise of covering 120
million people before the end of 2010. By the end of Novem ber,
the carrier was selling two handsets with 4G built in (the HTC
Evo 4G and the Samsung Epic 4G), plus a mobile hotspot and
T-Mobile's HSPA+ technology builds on 3G technologies,
and was deployed in more than 100 cities by the end of 2010.
The carrier promised to cover more than 200 million people
before the end of 2010, with average download speeds rang-
ing from 5 to 8 Mbps. The carrier currently offers two Android
phones (see p. 38) for its network, plus a 4G connection card
Verizon Wireless launched its LTE network using the 700-MHz
spectrum in 38 metro areas in December, with more markets
coming in 2011. That technologypromises 5 to 12 Mbps down-
loads and to 2 to 5 Mbps uploads. Verizon Wireless launched
two USB modems but LTE phones will follow by mid-2011.
AT&T is behind in the LTE race, having said it would
deploy the technolog y by mid-2011 and cover at least 70
million people by the end of year. However, the carrier says
it has rolled out its HSPA+ technology to 250 million people,
though for now on ly a single con nection card can deliver
more eff iciently, a nd deploying the tech nolog y costs the same
or less than a 3G buildout. “We can expect services that will be
better, cheaper, and more widely available than ever before,”
hoW It WIll Change your lIfe
There’s a lot of promise in 4G. Imagine being able to do any-
thing you can think of on a PC with a fast wired connection but
without being tied down. You can collaborate on documents,
play multiplayer games, watch HD movies, and more from a ny
location. “Faster data rates a nd less latency mean faster a nd
more interactive applications and a better user experience,”
Jarich said. One par ticular application that will get increased
traction is mobile video calling; you won’t need to be in a Wi-Fi
hotspot (see p. 50).
Jarich believes we’re not too far off from having a web
con nection in every device we own—even the refrigerator.
“If the filter needs to be changed, the machine could send you
an e-mail,” he said.
At the end of 2010, Sprint and T-Mobile both had considerably
larger 4G footholds than AT&T a nd Verizon Wireless. How-
ever, being first might not be enough. In early testing, Verizon
Wireless' LTE network beats both Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s 4G
speeds. W here Verizon Wireless needs to catch up is with its
network footpri nt a nd device selection. AT&T has the steepest
hill to climb, though. Despite the wrangling over the 4G term,
consumers will finally see wired speeds on the go in 2011.
Real competition, really fast speeds
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