As someone who loves gadgets and new technologies I have become accustomed to speaking in acronyms. One combination of letters and numbers that are being spoken about more and more is 4G and LTE.
LTE (Long Term Evolution) and 4G is, essentially, the same thing. This is the latest, indeed 4th generation, mobile phone technology that will enable your phone to access internet speeds similar, or even faster than, to what you have with broadband at home.
1G to 4G
In a BBC article, the director of the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge, David Cleevely, said a new generation mobile phone technology came along about every 12 years.
He put it 4G in nice historical perspective:
- 1G: The original and analogue mobile phones that were huge
- 2G: Digital phones that seemingly got smaller and smaller
- 3G: Dawn of the smartphone and data usage
- 4G: Your mobile device becomes even faster than your desktop computer
A technical advance never seems to occur without some squabbling (who remembers HD-DVDs?) and there are those who will argue that only WiMAX is truly 4G. There are also further complications with different operators and different devices working on different frequencies.
It might take a while, but eventually we are likely to see these problems with fragmentation overcome. I don’t know this for sure, obviously, but I do know that people want to be able to travel with their devices and use them in the same way wherever they go.
Just as WiFi has become an accepted and universally recognised umbrella term for wireless Internet so, surely, 4G will become shorthand for super fast cellular data access on our mobile devices.
As a consumer, I don’t care so much about the technical specifications or what frequencies are being used. Most importantly, what are the benefits of 4G?
Lumia 900 in the USA
Nokia Lumia 900 owners on AT&T’s LTE network in the USA are already enjoying cellular data download speeds up to (in theory) 75Mbps. Conversations has found that speeds between 5Mbps and 15Mbps were much more typical. That is still faster than my broadband at home!
This isn’t a case of spouting bigger numbers just for the sake of it. The benefits of having super-fast downloads on your mobile device are very real.
Streaming HD videos, downloading large apps, online gaming, video calling, emailing high-resolution photos and saving large files to a cloud are just some smartphone experiences that would be transformed with 4G connection speeds.
As well as faster connection speeds, there is another advantage with 4G. It has reduced ‘latency’ which means there is less of a delay before the Internet responds to your actions. It makes any online experience feel more responsive, smoother and quicker.
People with a Lumia 900 in the US have been lucky enough to be using LTE/4G for many months now, but it is still far from being commonplace in the rest of the world.
The reason for this is two-fold: not all operators in every single country have launched 4G networks and only newer handsets are capable of using the new generation networks.
All this is starting to change. Nokia’s new Windows Phone 8 smartphones, the Nokia Lumia 920 and Nokia Lumia 820 are both 4G-enabled. Operators, such as EE in the UK, are starting to roll out the new generation networks as well.
With these great new devices and more super-speedy networks being rolled out, hopefully it won’t be too long before more of us are able share in the 4G experience.