Saturday, January 15, 2011

3G, 4G, LTE, WiMax WTF?

3G, 4G, LTE, WiMAX - WTF?
It seems like every time we turn around a cell phone company is throwing around a new words claiming their network is better and it's the way of the future. 3G, 4G, LTE, WiMax...  Uneducated consumers have no idea what these terms mean. A lot of us only know what the big networks tell us. I thought I would try to "trim the fat" and break it down to the "cliff notes" version.
     3G or 3rd Generation wireless standards, is a term used to classify the speed of data transfer over a mobile communication device. To be considered 3G the application service system (eg. cell phone or mobile internet devices) must allow simultaneous use of speech and data services, and provide peak data rates of at least 200 kbit/s according to the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000.
     4G or 4th Generation of cellular wireless standards. Speed requirements for 4G service set the peak download speed at 100 Mbit/s for high mobility communication (eg. from trains or cars) and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility communication (eg. in a crowds or seated at a restaurant). In short, 4G is supposed to be like the speed of broadband on your home computer.
     3GPP aka LTE - Long Term Evolution is the latest standard in the mobile network technology. Although LTE is often marketed as 4G by many carriers, the first-release LTE does not fully comply with the 4G requirements. In short, your mobile provider is capitalizing on public ignorance. They tell you it's raining, when the reality is the're peeing on your leg. The LTE specification requires downlink peak rates of at least 100 Mbps, an uplink of at least 50 Mbps and RAN round-trip times of less than 10 ms. (Really-Really Fast) 
     WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a telecommunications protocol that provides fixed and fully mobile Internet access. WiMAX was the first 4G mobile broadband network out of the gate here in the U.S. (Sprint) The current WiMAX revision provides up to 40 Mbit/s and is expected to offer up to 1 Gbit/s fixed speed. WiMAX is more of an open internet service and its devices will be compatible with most all internet devices.  LTE, on the other hand, is more exclusive to certain internet service providers (ISP). 
     While LTE might be "Less open", it's specs consider it technically faster than WiMax. This I'm sure is one reason why both Verizon Wireless and AT&T are starting to push the LTE  terminology even though it might not be LTE (standards)...yet. The battle of the carriers is far from over. Soon LTE and WiMAX will find their place as did VHS vs Beta, HD DVD vs Blue Ray, and CD vs MP3. Who will win this one? Well that depends on which carrier you make the check out to.

Hope I was able to shed a little light on the subject for who ever might be reading this.

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