What’s A “G” & Are 4G Phones Better?
A “G” in terms of cellular connectivity, it simply means the device’s access to a network is part of a version or generation of a telecommunication standards. The “generation” itself is not a singular finite spec. Rather, it is a designation given to a group of specs, of which the service provider boasting “3G connectivity” can have all or just the minimum determined by the governing body (i.e. ITU, GSM, etc.). The trajectory of the device determines certain speeds for the bandwidth.
3G, “third generation” – A radio interface of signals fulfilling the specifications of the ITU. It must provide 200Kbps to be considered 3G. It was made more distributed, standardized, and popularized by the 3G Partnership Project and marketing campaigns. Most common 3G technologies: TD-SCDMA, WCDMA or UMTS, and CDMA2000.
The move of the standard is now towards an all-IP network, meaning the infrastructure is architected to transport all data by using encapsulated packets (datagrams), mimicking the nature of data transport on the internet. These next generation networks are built around the Internet Protocol, or IP, which is responsible for the packaging and routing of the data across network boundaries.
4G, “fourth generation”- The next generation or standardized advancement of mobile broadband connection technology, in relation to ITU requirements.
Though the term 4G is tossed around a lot and heard in almost every TV commercial regarding cell phones these days, the existing network technologies currently employed are more like 4G predecessors. They all technically fall just short of the ITU’s 4G requirements. Still, the ITU came out at the 2010 World Radiocommunication Seminar last December and decided to just allow these “evolved 3G technologies” to be considered “4G”. ‘What’s in a name?’ I guess.
- HSDPA- High Speed Downlink Packet Access
- HSDPA+- Update of above (More like 3.75G, referred to as 4G for marking purposes); T-Mobile now, and AT&T soon. Around 4mbps real world.
“4G is about performance and today T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network is delivering 4G speeds that match and often beat WiMAX and are readily comparable to what early LTE will deliver,” said T-Mobile’s USA chief technology officer, Neville Ray.
- WiMax- Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access; Sprint Nextel. Still short of the 100 Mbps for “4G” mobile devices.
- LTE and LTE Advanced– This is the future of wireless connectivity. Though it, like every other group in this category, is a little overzealous in the identity department. Its frequency bands don’t quite meet 4G (or IMT) requirements. Long Term Evolution (LTE) uses OFDMA, MIMO, and SC-FDMA radio technologies. The tech is already employed by Verizon and AT&T has a similar service in the works.
The truth about 4G? We aren’t quite there yet. Stick with the coverage you have for now instead of just going for the popularized “next greatest tech”. You could be disappointed when you expect blazing fast speeds, but get nothing more than a proliferation of 3G tech on a spottier network.