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SALT LAKE CITY — Mobile carriers nationwide are touting the benefits of "4G" speeds for their mobile networks. AT&T announced its network upgrade Tuesday at its Salt Lake City facility.
Other major carriers, such as Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have also launched their versions of 4G. But what does it means to consumers?
4G Versions by brand:
- Sprint: WiMax
- Verizon: LTE
- T-Mobile/AT&T: HSPA+
Well, for starters, in telecommunications, 4G is short for fourth generation cellular wireless standards and is a successor to the 3G and 2G levels of mobile network standards. And while progress in the world of mobile technology often happens incrementally, this latest advance may be more of a leap than previous steps.
"4G will essentially be up to 10 to 20 times faster than what you're seeing on 3G," said Loren Spoklie, technology communications specialist with the Utah Technology Council. "It's a big jump."
He said the speed with which mobile technology has advanced has increased significantly in just the past several years.
"If you were to look at the past five years of cell phone service, the changes are exponential," he said. "You can view a website on your (Droid or iPhone) that looks like what you would see on your computer."
He said the move to this latest generation mobile network could lead to more people eliminating their home Internet and just using their mobile device's data plan as their sole online source as he has done.
4G will essentially be up to 10 to 20 times faster than what you're seeing on 3G. It's a big jump.
"I just use my cell phone for everything," Spoklie said. "And I can tether my cell phone to my computer to give my computer Internet."
He said that consumers that require higher bandwidth for gaming and downloading high data applications like movies or complex programs will likely still need to maintain their home Internet service, but others will able to manage quite well on the higher capacity provided by 4G.
While virtually all mobile phone providers have a version of 4G, Spoklie said they are not all created equal.
"Each company gives that service to you in a different way," he said. There is no universal standard for what is considered 2G or 3G or 4G — it can vary widely, he noted.
In addition, just as with previous generational advances, access to the latest technology will be limited until the individual provider is able to upgrade its overall network, which could take some time, Spoklie explained. Companies will spend millions of dollars and take up to a year or two to build up their 4G networks, eventually allowing consumers to take advantage of the latest technology.
"A couple of years ago, 3G was the same way," he said.
Until those upgrades are fully implemented, companies will focus on getting the most coverage to the largest number of consumers throughout their networks.
"4G is out there, so people can access it. But not everywhere yet," Spoklie said.