A 4G network is the fourth generation of wireless, mobile communication. The overall goal for the network is to provide a comprehensive and secure network communication solution with much faster data speeds than previous generations. While still in development, the foundations for upgrading from 3G to 4G service started in the early 21st Century as companies began to introduce new technology. New standards such as WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE) have been referred to as 4G, though there is some debate regarding their status.
The specifics of the 4G network are geared toward high-quality service and fast data transfer rates. Priorities for this standard include better reception, with less dropped data, and faster information exchanges. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the organization that oversees standards for wireless networks, has stated that substantial improvements to multimedia messaging services, including video services, are required to approve a new generation.
4G requires a data speed transfer rate of at least 100 megabits per second while a user moves at high speeds, such as being on a train, and a one gigabit per second data rate in a fixed position. The ITU also requires fast transfers between networks without service interruption or loss of signal. Phones on a 4G network also need to use Internet Protocol (IP) technology for data transfers through packets, rather than traditional phone methods.
Progress Toward 4G
A variety of working groups have been established to help develop the 4G network. Early developments toward this technology include WiMax, which is a faster version of wireless data transfer than WiFi® networks. LTE is another technology that improves upon older 3G systems, but neither standard quite fulfills the ITU requirements for data rates.
Both of them have been labeled as 4G networks, however, which has led to some confusion and controversy. As both methods utilize IP packets, and have shown a marked improvement over 3G standards, the ITU has approved their labeling as 4G. This is contingent upon the developers of WiMax and LTE pushing forward to meet the official standards for 4G, which they have continued to do.
Upgrading From 3G to 4G
Overall implementation of the 3G network around the world took nearly a decade. The ITU plans to have the 4G network rolled out to the global market in a much more effective and timely manner. Enhancements made between 2G and 3G required substantial improvements in hardware for mobile devices, while companies developed many smart phones used on 3G networks for compatibility with new 4G standards. However, concerns over stability and security have slowed down some development, as service providers want to ensure they protect their customers' information.
Early Networks Prior To 4G
The first wireless network, known as 1G, was founded during the 1980s. 2G was introduced in the early 1990s to allow more transmissions to occur per communication channel. The foundations of 3G were established in the late 1990s and were implemented throughout the majority of the world in the early 21st century. While the 3G network was the first to allow for multimedia applications, the 4G network promises to take this basic technology and amplify it significantly.