By Grant Hatchimonji
Special Report Editor
4G, which is the next generation of telecommunications technology, and the successor to 3G, is presently found on an increasing number of smartphones and tablet devices. The promise is for increased capacity and capabilities delivered over more robust digital wireless networks.
While the first 4G handset was introduced in March 2010, 4G connectivity is currently proliferating as fast as the major carriers can deploy systems. Verizon Wireless, for example, which is the largest provider of 4G LTE, claims to provide the service to more than 200 million Americans in 194 cities. In fact, the U.S. is now home to more than 20% of global 3G/4G subscribers, according to the CTIA, an industry trade group.
Despite these advances, however, 4G is still a technology in transition and has a long way to go. Current 4G technology, for example, cannot technically even be considered 4G. The International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) criteria for a 4G network mandates that it must be able to achieve download speeds of 1 Gbit/s, and no existing 4G network actually meets those requirements, be it Verizon and AT&T's LTE, T-Mobile's HSPA+, or Sprint's WiMAX network (which will eventually switch over to LTE).
There are a lot of factors for carriers and device makers to consider as they make the shift to the next generation of data connectivity, including continued support for 3G networks, faster speeds, and improved efficiency to help preserve handsets' battery life. We are currently only in the first generation of 4G handsets and chips, so there's plenty of room for advancement. Beyond that, discussions about 4G technologies improving into the likes of LTE Advanced and HSPA+ Advanced are already taking place, so the future of 4G connectivity will be rife with change and full of potential.
In this Special Report, TechnologyGuide and Brighthand take a look at the current state of 4G and its future as mobile devices become more capable and wireless data demands increase. Stay with us as we continue to update this report with more articles, analysis, and insight on this evolving technology.
4G Special Report Articles
Despite its claims of a 4G network, T-Mobile USA's real fourth generation technology is still a year away.Read more on T-Mobile USA's 4G Launch
The marketing term "4G" as it exists today is a bit of a misnomer, given the ITU's definition of the technology. But given the potential of current networks, does that really matter?Read more on the potential of 4G
America's number three carrier was the first to get to 4G, but it's hitting the reset button. Sprint Nextel's network didn't offer the speeds that the carrier promised, so it needed to reevaluate its strategy. How does the future of Sprint Nextel look?Read more on Sprint Nextel's 4G rollout status
TechnologyGuide editors recently got to meet with representatives from the CDMA Development Group, an industry trade organization that promotes the use of CDMA and other complimentary technologies. See what they had to say about the budding technology that is 4G.Read more on our 4G discussion with the CDMA Group
Want to see what else the CDMA Group had to say about 4G? Have a look at some of the videos taken during our roundtable discussion.See the videos from our meeting with the CDMA Group
A victim of its own success, AT&T had to get its 3G act together before making the LTE jump. Luckily, AT&T's dedication to upgrading its 3G technology gives subscribers a reliable network to fall back on when outside of 4G coverage.Read more on AT&T's 4G rollout
The next generation of wireless services promises speeds to rival cable modems and high-speed land lines. Where do the major players stand in their rollout plans?Read more on The Emergence of 4G Telcom
After years of slowly building, 4G networks are finally coming into their own. All of the top wireless carriers offer this high-speed data service in one form or another, and these are opening up new possibilities for smartphones and tablets. But there are problems among the possibilities, too.Read more on The Benefits and Challenges of 4G
Verizon Wireless has the undisputed lead in 4G rollout, with more than 195 markets covering more than 200 million Americans at the start of 2012. It added five more cities in January 2012 and continues to rollout more LTE devices as well.Read more on Verizon's 4G Lead
Forum Feedback: Readers Discuss 4G Tech
I'm new to 4G and I'm still not sure it's worth it, but I can say it's the only way to talk and surf at the same time on Sprint's network.”
– User jigwashere on his Sprint 4G service
“ 3G is fast enough for what I usually use my phone for...[sometimes] when I use my phone for tethering, I wish I could use 4G, but apart from that 3G is good enough. ” – User pj_automata, who uses 3G since there is no 4G reception in his area
I live a short ways out in the country so I only get EDGE at home, despite the fact that I have a T-Mobile tower maybe 3 miles from my house. Guess it just doesn't have the 4G gear.
– User LandSurveyor on his 4G coverage
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