4G is the latest mobile telecoms standards for telecoms networks, products and infrastructure.
4G follows standards for developing products, services and infrastructure laid down by different standards bodies and regulatory working groups, made up from senior telecoms technologists in the industry. The best known of these are the 3GPP and the IEEE. The 3GPP group is proposing LTE (Long Term Evolution) as the basis for 4G, while the IEEE is promoting WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology. Both development standards have been submitted to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) for consideration as a 4G standard.
New 4G services will operate on different frequency bands, which will deliver IP (Internet Protocol) based telecoms for the first time in the commercial sector.
LTE (Long Term Evolution) is commonly called 4G, but technically, it isn't a 4G technology, as it does not comply with all standards. However, many major operators, such as AT&T have committed to rolling out LTE as their next major network technology upgrade. AT&T has also committed to an HSPA+ network, as an interim before fully rolling out LTE.
HSPA+ is a truer form of 4G, modelled and evolving from existing 3GPP industry standards. Unlike LTE, it does not require a new air interface, meaning the initial set up costs are much less, but it delivers a similar level of service to LTE. This makes it an attractive proposition for many mobile operators. Rogers, Bell and Telus in Canada and TMobile in the USA have already rolled out HSPA+.
Sprint Nextel chose to roll out WiMAX as their next generation network technology, however, they also announced that they still intend to build an LTE network. WiMAX has been extremely popular in places such as Asia, but seems to be losing favor in the industry to HSPA+ and LTE.
Why do mobile operators need 4G?
Think of how in the last few years, our mobile telephones have become so much more. Since the advent of the iPhone, data has overtaken voice as the primary demand on mobile networks. Data is difficult to send through mobile networks, especially for services such as live streaming TV. It is also far more costly for the mobile operators to send data than voice. This is all contributing to huge pressures on today's mobile networks, so new services that deliver speed and bandwidth, with a lower cost per bit are essential.
What will 4G do for me?
The obvious benefit of 4G is the ability to stream live media seamlessly. Buffering should become a thing of the past. This benefits users of internet TV, gaming and those who frequently access the Internet from their phone.
It will also enable new services such as HDTV on your mobile handset. It will also in some instances enable roaming within wireless internet networks, starting to blur the line with where the Internet ends and mobile telecoms begins.