4G Rollout: Multimode To The Max?
The introduction of HTC’s EVO 4G and Samsung’s Epic 4G in its Galaxy S series started the transition to 4G on handheld devices in the U.S. Just how many “real 4G” connections there will be, however, is a matter of definition.
4G may be marketing magic for selling phones. But for the next few years, at least, 4G will carry data exclusively because multimedia data is, after all, where broadband is needed. Also, as always, there will be a phased transition to the new generation.
Voice is likely to be carried over the 3G networks for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean that over the next couple of years a substantial number of customers won’t be carrying real 4G-capable handhelds.
The cleanest definition of 4G is simple—transferring data over a wireless link using WiMAX or Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technologies. In the U.S., Sprint has the best-known WiMAX network, which until now has been exclusively laptop-oriented with connections enabled by data cards and dongles.
Verizon began its LTE deployment in the second half of 2010. Motorola also uses WiMAX in a broadband, point-to-multipoint network that provides broadband access in a variety of applications, mostly between stationary devices.
Enter 4G Mobile
After years of waiting, 4G phones will be widely available in the U.S. in 2011—in the WiMAX variation, at least. Sprint estimates that its WiMAX infrastructure will cover an area of about 120 million U.S. customers by the end of the year.
Sprint’s Clearwire subsidiary handles the WiMAX infrastructure, which operates in the 2.5-GHz band. Wherever WiMAX is available, however, Sprint will offer a hybrid data service that will default to 3G in areas where WiMAX is not available.
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