What is 4G Part 2 – The Nitty Gritty

David, one of the Help Desk employee’s, spoke last week regarding what qualifies as 3G and 4G. Today we’re going to cover more details on what exactly makes 4G, 4G.  We’ll cover; LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+, sounds like Greek now but by the end of this post you’ll have a better grasp on the details of 4G wireless communication.

LTE, aka Long Term Evolution, is a next generation of cell phone connectivity technology based upon Global Mobile standards. The only major US carrier using this technology is Verizon, it is being evaluated by other carriers like AT&T and Sprint. One advantage to this technology is that it is expected to become common place globally in the next few years, as it is already supported in many countries. Meaning any phone you get here in the United States would have the ability to work internationally. When considering how fast the speed will be, real-world speeds are expected to be from 6 to 12 Mbps for downloads, and 2 to 5 Mbps for uploads which is phenomenally better than current Verizon 3G speeds which top out at 1.2 Mbps for downloads.

Verizon’s LTE can be found in 38 major cities including Denver, they hope to have nationwide coverage by 2013. Verizon has a few devices on sale currently that can take advantage of this new network but they have more slated for release including the HTC Thunderbolt and the Droid Bionic.

WiMAX (basically Wi-Fi on steroids) is a next generation of cell phone connectivity based upon Wi-Fi standards. This allows you to have the speed and reliability of a Wi-Fi network over the space of a small city. Currently, the only major carrier using this technology is Sprint. Download speeds have been found on average around  3 to 6 Mbps for downloads, and only 1 to 2 Mbps for uploads.

Sprint’s WiMax can be found in over 62 markets across the country including the greater Denver area.  Sprint is constantly expanding their network and while they have made no timetable for nationwide coverage like Verizon. They plan to start WiMax service in Cheyenne sometime this summer. Sprint currently sells several phones that are able to use this 4G service. Those phones are the HTC EVO – 4G and – Shift 4G, and the Samsung Epic 4G.

HSPA+ isn’t actually a next generation technology, it’s a 3G technology and not necessarily a step up like LTE and WiMax. That being said, HSPA+ is capable of equivalent speeds to other 4G technologies as current installations of HSPA+ have download speeds of around 7.2 Mbps. Major US carriers using this technology are T-Mobile and AT&T. Currently T-Mobile is capable of hitting speeds up to 21 Mbps, although typical speeds are around 5 to 7 Mbp, AT&T’s speeds are similar.

T-Mobile’s HSPA+ can be found in over 200 market’s, sadly it is not available in Wyoming. That being said, as Alltel towers in Wyoming are being converted to AT&T, they are being upgraded with the newest HSPA+ technology which means these great download speeds will be available soon. Phones designed specifically to take advantage of these speeds are in production, but some phones like the Apple iPhone 4 already can – just ask your provider if your phone works with HSPA+.

Ultimately, the best way to determine what high speeds are available in your area is to contact your service provider and see what they offer for you.


Pedro Rampolla Freshman at UW - Political Science from Cheyenne, WY


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