The next phase of the move to faster wireless communications clearly is under way, with the deployment of Clearwire's WiMax-based Clear service. This week, Verizon Wireless moved the process along significantly with the announcement that it will begin rolling out its Long Term Evolution on Sunday. The company says that the expected downlink speeds will be 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) and uplinks to be 2 to 5 Mbps.
The rollout clearly will be aggressive. The company is hiking speeds in 39 metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Cleveland, Baltimore and Boston. The system also will be lit in 62 airports, at least some of which are in the cities being upgraded. Actual services almost certainly will be eased in gradually. Computerworld offers insight into how this might proceed.
Next generation wireless networking is hitting something of a definitional challenge. It is common to refer to WiMax and LTE as 4G technologies. To be precise, however, only future versions of the technology-LTE Advanced and WiMax 2-will rate that designation. The current versions fall short.
So, on one hand, LTE and WiMax no doubt will provide faster services than 3G does today. However, in some cases, upgrades to what is commonly being referred to as 3.5G will run faster than the technology using the 4G moniker today.
The ramp up for LTE-be it 4G, 3.5G or 3.999G-is expected to be quick. After all, demand for high speed wireless services is great and growing. In-Stat this week released research that agrees that uptake indeed will be great, but points out that it also will be tricky. The firm says that difficult licensing challenges lay ahead, and that country-specific issues may retard the process in some places. The release offers ideas on how various forms of the technology will fare. The bottom line, according to In-Stat, is that there will be about 115 million LTE subscribers by 2014.
On one level, the difference between whether the networks truly are 4G or not is purely semantic. They run as fast as they run. On another level, however, the willingness to stretch the truth-let's face it, wireless carriers know what is 4G and what is not-shows that end users should keep careful tabs on what the carriers are offering. This is particularly important because there is a lot of wiggle room in broadband network claims, since the carrier always can say that network conditions lead to performance that is under the advertised level.
It is true that many factors can hurt performance. At the same time, such imprecision can be an invitation for marketers to stretch the truth in the same way they are with 4G claims.