4G (also known as Beyond 3G), an abbreviation for Fourth-Generation, is a term used to describe the next complete evolution in wireless communications. A 4G system will be able to provide a comprehensive IP solution where voice, data and streamed multimedia can be given to users on an "Anytime, Anywhere" basis, and at higher data rates than previous generations.
As the second generation was a total replacement of the first generation networks and handsets; and the third generation was a total replacement of second generation networks and handsets; so too the fourth generation cannot be an incremental evolution of current 3G technologies, but rather the total replacement of the current 3G networks and handsets. The international telecommunications regulatory and standardization bodies are working for commercial deployment of 4G networks roughly in the 2012-2015 time scale. At that point it is predicted that even with current evolutions of third generation 3G networks, these will tend to be congested.
There is no formal definition for what 4G is; however, there are certain objectives that are projected for 4G. These objectives include: that 4G will be a fully IP-based integrated system. 4G will be capable of providing between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s speeds both indoors and outdoors, with premium quality and high security.
Many companies have taken self-serving definitions and distortions about 4G to suggest they have 4G already in existence today, such as several early trials and launches of WiMAX, which is part of the formal ITU standard for 3G. Other companies have made prototype systems calling those 4G. While it is possible that some currently demonstrated technologies may become part of 4G, until the 4G standard or standards have been defined, it is impossible for any company currently to provide with any certainty wireless solutions that could be called 4G cellular networks that would conform to the eventual international standards for 4G. These confusing statements around "existing" 4G have served to confuse investors and analysts about the wireless industry.
In summary, the 4G system should dynamically share and utilise network resources to meet the minimal requirements of all the 4G enabled users.
It introduces a single new ubiquitous radio access system concept, which will be flexible to a variety of beyond-3G wireless systems.
Second generation: All the standards belonging to this generation are commercial centric and they are digital in form. Around 60% of the current market is dominated by European standards. The second generation standards are GSM, iDEN, D-AMPS, IS-95, PDC, CSD, PHS, GPRS, HSCSD, and WiDEN.
Third generation: To meet the growing demands in network capacity, rates required for high speed data transfer and multimedia applications, 3G standards started evolving. The systems in this standard are essentially a linear enhancement of 2G systems. They are based on two parallel backbone infrastructures, one consisting of circuit switched nodes, and one of packet oriented nodes. The ITU defines a specific set of air interface technologies as third generation, as part of the IMT-2000 initiative. Currently, transition is happening from 2G to 3G systems. As a part of this transition, numerous technologies are being standardized.
Fourth generation: According to the 4G working groups, the infrastructure and the terminals of 4G will have almost all the standards from 2G to 4G implemented. Although legacy systems are in place to adopt existing users, the infrastructure for 4G will be only packet-based (all-IP). Some proposals suggest having an open platform where the new innovations and evolutions can fit. The technologies which are being considered as pre-4G are the following: Flash-OFDM, WiMax, WiBro, iBurst, 3GPP Long Term Evolution and 3GPP2 Ultra Mobile Broadband. One of the first technology really fullfilling the 4G requirements as set by the ITU-R will be LTE Advanced as currently standardized by 3GPP. LTE Advanced will be an evolution of the 3GPP Long Term Evolution. Higher data rates are for instance achieved by the aggregation of multiple LTE carriers that are currently limited to 20MHz bandwidth.
Recently, new access schemes like Orthogonal FDMA (OFDMA), Single Carrier FDMA (SC-FDMA), Interleaved FDMA and Multi-carrier code division multiple access (MC-CDMA) are gaining more importance for the next generation systems. WiMax is using OFDMA in the downlink and in the uplink. For the next generation UMTS, OFDMA is being considered for the downlink. By contrast, IFDMA is being considered for the uplink since OFDMA contributes more to the PAPR related issues and results in nonlinear operation of amplifiers. IFDMA provides less power fluctuation and thus avoids amplifier issues. Similarly, MC-CDMA is in the proposal for the IEEE 802.20 standard. These access schemes offer the same efficiencies as older technologies like CDMA. Apart from this, scalability and higher data rates can be achieved.
The other important advantage of the above mentioned access techniques is that they require less complexity for equalization at the receiver. This is an added advantage especially in the MIMO environments since the spatial multiplexing transmission of MIMO systems inherently requires high complexity equalization at the receiver.
In addition to improvements in these multiplexing systems, improved modulation techniques are being used. Whereas earlier standards largely used Phase-shift keying, more efficient systems such as 64QAM are being proposed for use with the 3GPP Long Term Evolution standards.
Unlike 3G, which is based on two parallel infrastructures consisting of circuit switched and packet switched network nodes respectively, 4G will be based on packet switching only. This will require low-latency data transmission.
By the time that 4G is deployed, the process of IPv4 address exhaustion is expected to be in its final stages. Therefore, in the context of 4G, IPv6 support is essential in order to support a large number of wireless-enabled devices. By increasing the number of IP addresses, IPv6 removes the need for Network Address Translation (NAT), a method of sharing a limited number of addresses among a larger group of devices.
In the context of 4G, IPv6 also enables a number of applications with better multicast, security, and route optimization capabilities. With the available address space and number of addressing bits in IPv6, many innovative coding schemes can be developed for 4G devices and applications that could aid deployment of 4G networks and services.
The performance of radio communications obviously depends on the advances of an antenna system, refer to smart or intelligent antenna. Recently, multiple antenna technologies are emerging to achieve the goal of 4G systems such as high rate, high reliability, and long range communications. In the early 90s, to cater the growing data rate needs of data communication, many transmission schemes were proposed. One technology, spatial multiplexing, gained importance for its bandwidth conservation and power efficiency. Spatial multiplexing involves deploying multiple antennas at the transmitter and at the receiver. Independent streams can then be transmitted simultaneously from all the antennas. This increases the data rate into multiple folds with the number equal to minimum of the number of transmit and receive antennas. This is called MIMO (as a branch of intelligent antenna). Apart from this, the reliability in transmitting high speed data in the fading channel can be improved by using more antennas at the transmitter or at the receiver. This is called transmit or receive diversity. Both transmit/receive diversity and transmit spatial multiplexing are categorized into the space-time coding techniques, which does not necessarily require the channel knowledge at the transmit. The other category is closed-loop multiple antenna technologies which use the channel knowledge at the transmitter.
Digiweb, an Irish fixed and wireless broadband company, has announced that they have received a mobile communications license from the Irish Telecoms regulator, ComReg. This service will be issued the mobile code 088 in Ireland and will be used for the provision of 4G Mobile communications.. Digiweb launched a mobile broadband network using FLASH-OFDM technology at 872 MHz.
Pervasive networks are an amorphous and at present entirely hypothetical concept where the user can be simultaneously connected to several wireless access technologies and can seamlessly move between them (See handover, IEEE 802.21). These access technologies can be Wi-Fi, UMTS, EDGE, or any other future access technology. Included in this concept is also smart-radio (also known as cognitive radio technology) to efficiently manage spectrum use and transmission power as well as the use of mesh routing protocols to create a pervasive network.
Sprint plans to launch 4G services in trial markets by the end of 2007 with plans to deploy a network that reaches as many as 100 million people in 2008 and has also announced WiMax service called Xohm. Tested in Chicago, this speed was clocked at 100 Mbit/s.
Verizon Wireless announced on September 20, 2007 that it plans a joint effort with the Vodafone Group to transition its networks to the 4G standard LTE. The time of this transition has yet to be announced.
The German WiMAX operator Deutsche Breitband Dienste (DBD) has launched WiMAX services (DSLonair) in Magdeburg and Dessau. The subscribers are offered a tariff plan costing 9.95 euros per month offering 2 Mbit/s download / 300 kbit/s upload connection speeds and 1.5 GB monthly traffic. The subscribers are also charged a 16.99 euro one-time fee and 69.90 euro for the equipment and installation. DBD received additional national licenses for WiMAX in December 2006 and have already launched the services in Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden.
American WiMAX services provider Clearwire made its debut on Nasdaq in New York on March 8, 2007. The IPO was underwritten by Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. Clearwire sold 24 million shares at a price of $25 per share. This adds $600 million in cash to Clearwire, and gives the company a market valuation of just over $3.9 billion.
Canadian Wireless Provider TELUS announced that they will be cooperating with BELL CANADA to the next step in its evolution towards building a fourth generation (4G) wireless broadband network, the most advanced mobile broadband network in Canada. This new wireless network, based on the latest generation of High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, will enable TELUS to easily transition to long term evolution (LTE) technology, the emerging worldwide LTE technology standard. The new network will 'futureproof' our technology and position TELUS for an easy transition to LTE/4G technology.
Building will begin immediately and is expected to be complete by early 2010. When up and running, it will be one of the leading networks in the world..
Already at rates of 15-30 Mbit/s, 4G should be able to provide users with streaming high-definition television. At rates of 100 Mbit/s, the content of a DVD-5, for example a movie, can be downloaded within about 5 minutes for offline access.
According to a Visant Strategies study there will be multiple competitors in this space:
Fixed WiMax and Mobile WiMax are different systems, as of July 2007, all the deployed WiMax is "Fixed Wireless" and is thus not yet 4G (IMT-advanced) although it can be seen as one of the 4G standards being considered.