4G refers to the fourth generation of wireless networks. It is an advanced cellular network that succeeded 3G, or third generation networks, to provide improved mobile broadband Internet access. Current and potential applications include improved mobile web capabilities, gaming services, high-definition mobile video services and cloud computing.
The 4G mobile data protocol offers speeds that are roughly 10 times faster than 3G networks. 4G technologies are supported by LTE and WiMax networks. LTE, which is the standard network to support 4G for AT&T and Verizon customers, is an existing consortium of HSPA/CDMA networks. WiMax, which is utilized by Sprint, requires new networks to support 4G capabilities.
3G technologies feature maximum data transfer speeds of 2 megabits per second, however, common speeds fall somewhere between 500 kilobits per second to 1.5 megabits per second depending on the user’s carrier, congestion and the location of the cell tower. By comparison, 4G speeds are considerably faster. WiMax offers maximum data transfer speeds of 6 megabits per second and up to 1 megabit per second for data uploads. LTE carriers boast even better transfer speeds, claiming peak download speeds of 100 megabits per second and upload rates of up to 50 megabits per second.
LTE, or long term evolution, networks are all-IP networks developed under the same principles as the Internet’s TCP/IP networks. Both LTE and WiMax 4G networks utilize orthogonal frequency-division multiple access to transmit multiple data streams over a uniform channel.