In the Loop: 4G Wireless Explained


You have a Smartphone with 4G wireless technology.  You really like the lightning fast transmission of photos, music and videos and you think the whole idea of 4G is really cool, but do you understand how the technology works?   Chances are, you really don’t. However, you don’t have to be a geek to understand the basics of 4G.  You only need to know how 4G fits in the procession of wireless telephone technology.

Generations of Data Transmission

In the beginning, there was analog. Analog cell phones worked on a similar principle as analog television – they transmitted signals in the forms of beams between handsets, which were essentially radio receivers. You could only talk on your cell phone then; there was no data transmission possible.  This was known as 1G – as in first generation.

The next phase was 2G, which switched transmission from analog to digital, making it possible for cell phones to offer some data transmission capabilities. Technology for 2G phones are based on two incompatible platforms. CDMA transmits data by EVDO at a maximum speed of 1.4 Mpbs and is used by most carriers in the United States. GSM, which is used by AT&T , T-Mobile and a majority of carriers in the rest of the world, uses GPRS to transmit data at a maximum speed of about 1Mpbs.

The next phase of cell phone transmission technology, 3G, refers to the speed rather than the type of data transmission. It’s generally accepted that 3G transmissions have a maximum speed of 2Mpbs, whether you have a CDMA phone that transmits data through EVDO or a GSM phone that transmits data through and HSDPA.

LTE versus WiMax

The data heavy transmissions demanded by Smartphones, such as photos, music and live streaming video, would be much slower without the power of 4G technology, which theoretically transmits data up to a maximum of 6 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads through WiMax technology and a maximum of 100 Mbps for downloads and 50Mbps for uploads through LTE technology. In reality, transmission speeds for both 4G technologies is much slower, due to congestion, cell phone tower location, your carrier, and other factors. WiMax handles all data transmission on a single channel, while LTE splits data transmission, which can result in a better balance of upload and download speeds. In the United States, all major carriers except Sprint have opted for LTE 4G technologies.  Sprint is going with WiMax.

4G versus WiFi

The not so secret downside to all this speedy data transmission is what happens when you get your monthly cell phone bill. The term “sticker shock” often applies.  While it’s not always possible, a viable alternative in many cases is to utilize WiFi connections for data transmissions, and even some long distance telephone calls. It’s true that WiFi is not always available, and that public WiFi networks present potential security risks. Nonetheless, if you’re watching the latest episode of your favorite TV show through a web browser on your Smartphone, you can save a lot of money by connecting to the signal through a WiFi connection than through your service provider’s data plan.

Joseph Gray is a retiree who is obsessed with technology. He also enjoys sharing what he learns with others by blogging on various websites. To learn more about wireless technology and clear isp, visit the link.

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