What is 4G?
4G is really an upgrade to mobile data services rather than voice, although the new architecture does provide greater 4G network efficiencies for voice. As 4G is implemented, users will have the opportunity to experience faster data download speeds.
Mobile phones are now starting to appear in the European and US markets which are 4G enabled, but the true potential of 4G will be realised in the form of USB Dongles. 4G Dongles are basically USB modems containing a mobile SIM card. This is connected to a PC/Laptop USB port and wirelessly connect to the internet via a mobile network operator which is 4G enabled.
4G is the fourth generation of the cellular wireless standard and is the successor of the current 3G/3.5G/3.75G standard we all use right now.
The third generation (3G) has been used for several years now. Over the years 3G has been enhanced in terms of infrastructure and speed but has really reached the limit now and so we are now preparing for 4G to overcome these limitations.
The first 3G networks were launched in 2002. This was known as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) this was launched with heavy emphasis on mobile applications such as mobile TV and video calling. These days, UMTS is more used for mobile Internet access.
The first enhancement came in the form of HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access). This was also known as 3.5G, 3G+ or Turbo 3G. It was around 2007 when mobile network operators were launching USB Dongles for HSDPA. This provided faster speeds than the initial 3G network access.
The final enhancement was HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access) this provided link speeds of up to 5.76Mbit/s in perfect conditions. HSUPA employs link adaption methods such as shorter retransmission time intervals enabling a faster link adaptation and incremental redundancy making retransmissions more effective. HSUPA is also sometimes referred to as 3.75G
WiMAX & LTE
Both WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for microwave Access) and LTE (Long Term Evolution) are 4G technologies designed to deliver high-speed Internet services to large geographical areas and both are IP-networks that are based on OFDM technology (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing – in other words a method of encoding digital data on multiple carrier frequencies). So what’s the difference?
WiMAX is based on IEEE standards (802.16) which makes it a brother to the famous Wi-Fi which is used worldwide. However, compared to Wi-Fi, WiMAX has a got a much wider range which can reach for about 30 miles (48KM) and offers data-transfer rated of up to 75Mbit/s, however, the bandwidth must be split among multiple users and so yields lower speeds in practice. WiMAX is sometimes referred to as “Wi-Fi on Steroids”
LTE is based upon 3GPP standards, just like UMTS/HSDPA. So LTE can be seen as the older, much wiser brother of today’s HSDPA. LTE has a range of 46 miles (75 KM). LTE has peak download speeds of 299.6 Mbit/s.
WiMAX v LTE
The main question is what will be the standard for the 4G networks, WiMAX or LTE? Most in the know are saying that LTE has already won. LTE definitely has the advantage over WiMAX due to its wider range and quicker access speeds. Big global mobile network providers like Verizon wireless and T-mobile have already chosen LTE. The main reason for this choice by the operators is that unlike WiMAX, LTE is backwards compatible. This means that if you don’t have LTE coverage (4G), then 3G will take it over. This isn’t the case with WiMAX, it’s all or nothing.