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The mystery that is 4g

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4G networks appear to be all any mobile carrier can talk about nowadays. The problem is, with so many carriers claiming to have the biggest or fastest network, the 4G landscape can get pretty confusing. As it turns out, 4G isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem.

While all of the key wireless providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, have just recently unveiled smartphones with a “4G” network connection, it seems the definition of 4G varies from network to network. Let’s discuss the numerous definitions of “4G”.

HSPA

Both AT&T and T-Mobile have been employing HSPA for their 3G networks and HSPA is fundamentally the same network with increased capacity. T-Mobile is already offering the improved technology in more major metropolitan areas than their HSPA competitor.

4G networks appear to be all any mobile carrier can talk about nowadays. The problem is, with so many carriers claiming to have the biggest or fastest network, the 4G landscape can get pretty confusing. As it turns out, 4G isn’t as clear-cut as it may seem.

While all of the key wireless providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, have just recently unveiled smartphones with a “4G” network connection, it seems the definition of 4G varies from network to network. Let’s discuss the numerous definitions of “4G”.

HSPA

Both AT&T and T-Mobile have been employing HSPA for their 3G networks and HSPA is fundamentally the same network with increased capacity. T-Mobile is already offering the improved technology in more major metropolitan areas than their HSPA competitor.

LTE

This is the technology that is currently being adopted by Verizon. The LTE network is based on Global System for Media (GSM) technology, rather than Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), which Verizon has always utilized. LTE has a higher capacity and features download speeds of 5-12 Mbps, the equivalent of a typical home broadband connection.

In Verizon’s case, the LTE network is completely separate from the network that Verizon’s current users are on, lowering the chances of overcrowding.

Wi-Max

Wi-Max is also GSM-based, and it was initially considered to be the major contender for a 4G standard. Unfortunately, Wi-Max is not as fast as Verizon’s LTE network, but it is faster than AT&T and T-Mobile’s HSPA .

Unlike the other mobile carriers, Sprint’s version of a 4G network has been around for many months, meaning that their users were able to utilize this technology long before users of other networks.

As you can see, there is no standard definition of a “4G” network. Luckily for us, the options are improving and the coverage is growing. Pretty soon, every carrier will have an enhanced network to choose from.

For more information on 4G networks and what they really mean, check out this Popular Science article.