4G And Wireless Broadband
These wireless wide-area technologies promise soul-stirring connection speeds no matter where you are -- some day. That, in turn, according to the promises of equipment vendors, will open the way to all manner of new mobile technologies such as television and movies on the go.
- NFC And ZigBee
- Wireless Mesh
Wide-Area Wireless Networks
- 3G Service
- 4G And Wireless Broadband
In general, these future technologies fall into two categories. Fourth-generation, or 4G, refers to fast wireless data access that will eventually be provided by cellular operators to replace 3G technologies. "Wireless broadband" is fast wireless technology that is starting to be offered by so-called wireless ISPs but that also could be offered by cellular and traditional telecom operators.
The best-known brand of wireless broadband is WiMAX, which is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard and has been championed by Intel, among other industry heavyweights. However, other brands of wireless broadband are also currently available, most notably FLASH-OFDM, which is being championed by Qualcomm, and UMTS TDD, which is from a smaller company called IPWireless.
Here's the tricky part: 4G and wireless broadband networks may turn out to be the same thing in the end.
Wireless broadband networks currently are based on a technology called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM). While OFDM technology such as WiMAX is starting to be available from wireless ISPs, many believe that some future form of OFDM will be used by the cellular operators for 4G access. In particular, Qualcomm is laying its bets that Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) will be adopted by cellular operators in the future.
Currently, Sprint in the U.S. is furthest down the wireless broadband/4G path. It is evaluating WiMAX, FLASH-OFDM and UMTS TDD and says it will pick one of those technologies this year and start deploying it next year. In its literature, Sprint sometimes refers to this technology as 4G technology, even though wireless ISPs will be offering the same technology. It isn't saying, however, what it will do with this technology once it is deployed.
"The most important thing about wireless technology isn't the alphabet soup [of acronyms], but how fast it is, how much can I use, what does it cost, and where does it work," Kerton said. "If you ask those questions, it doesn't matter what the acronym is."