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What is 4G Cell Phone Service

Understanding 4G Coverage

When technology meets marketing, there is often confusion, and that is certainly true for cell phone providers. As more and more people are using hand-held devices, we are seeing the technology that powering them increase in both speed and coverage. Yet the consumer is often baffled by the terms and descriptions of the new technology. In the telecommunications industry the confusion around technical terms is exacerbated when the marketing folks get ahold of these technical terms, things can get skewed.

The Real Definition of 4G

The term 4G is a perfect example of a technical term who’s meaning has been morphed by marketing departments. From a technical standpoint, 4G has a very clear and precise definition created by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). As an agent of the United Nations, the ITU sets global communications standards. The definition of 4G according to the ITU is the ability of a wireless connection with a high functioning mobile device like a cell phone or a laptop to transmit at least 100MB of data. For places like hot spots, and other inferior applications, the ITU standard is up to a gigabyte. This is a precise and exact definition of what a 4G connection is, but that’s not how the industry has defined 4G.

What the Industry Considers 4G

Anybody watching television in the U.S. is familiar with the term, 4G, but in the commercials, the service they are referring to is not what the ITU defines as 4G. Today, cell phone providers, have morphed the term 4G into an ambiguous term referring to the 4th generation. In other words, 3G was the third generation, and now 4G is the new and improved fourth generation. Obviously, the commercial definition of 4G is not nearly as precise as the ITU’s version, but the new 4G service does offer the consumer a significant improvement compared to 3G services.

History of 4G, Compared to 3G

The speed of 4G, compared to 3G is significant enough to be noticeable to the consumer. Sprint was the trailblazer in 4th generation data transfer when they began offering customers a WiMax 4G network. At that time, WiMax offered the fastest data transfer speeds. Then LTE (Long Term Evolution) was created, pushing the speed needle higher. Now, every major provider offers some level of 4G coverage and the improvement is significant. While what’s offered by most providers is a far cry from the 100MB standard set by the ITU, it’s still a huge improvement from the 1MB speed usually offered on a 3G network.

The Future of 4G

Globally, 4G is the industry standard. Right now, Sprint is just completing a 3-year network upgrade, dubbed ‘Network Vision’ that will allow them to offer an improved 3G network, and a nation-wide 4G service. AT&T was one of the first companies to offer LTE, and they now have a very large and reliable 4G network. But at this time, the king of 4G is Verizon, the owner of the nation’s largest 4G network. Without question, we are watching the future of data transfer develop. With 4G, telecommunications companies are all trying to offer the fastest data transfer with the most coverage.