4G simply means fourth generation in mobile technologies. It is the common name for IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) Advanced standards defined by International Telecommunications Union (ITU). What does the standard mean to common man? It means an awesome one Gigabit per second of download speed, while you access the internet, through wireless means! When both the transmitting and receiving station are mobile, the speed is a bit less. When mobile, that is at a speed of at least 60mph, 4G offers you a download speed of 100 Megabits per second. Put more bluntly, 4G allows you to download an HD movie in no more than 30 seconds! ITU-Radiocommunications describes IMT-Advanced (4G) as a next generation network providing fast data access, unified messaging and broadband multimedia.
Now more pertinent questions, there are a lot of technologies offering high speed internet, how would one know if he/she is using this 4G stuff or not? Well, ITU has specified certain technical standards, which should be met by any technology that claims to be 4G. The specifications list the minimum data transfer rate that the proposed 4G network should have. The 4G working group has defined the following as objectives of the 4G wireless communication standard:
-A nominal data rate of 100 Mbit/s while the client physically moves at high speeds relative to the station, and 1 Gbit/s while client and station are in relatively fixed positions as defined by the ITU-R
-A data rate of at least 100 Mbit/s between any two points in the world.
-Flexible channel bandwidth, between 5 and 20 MHz, optionally up to 40 MHz.
-Peak link spectral efficiency of 15 bit/s/Hz in the downlink, and 6.75 bit/s/Hz in the uplink (meaning that 1 Gbit/s in the downlink should be possible over less than 67 MHz bandwidth)
-System spectral efficiency of up to 3 bit/s/Hz/cell in the downlink and 2.25 bit/s/Hz/cell for indoor usage.
-Smooth handoff across heterogeneous networks.
-Seamless connectivity and global roaming across multiple networks
-High quality of service for next generation multimedia support (real time audio, high speed data, HDTV video content, mobile TV, etc.)
-Interoperability with existing wireless standards, and
-An all IP, packet switched network.
What makes 4G, or for that matter wireless broadband, inevitable? How 4G is going to bring changes in everything related to internet? The last specification mentioned above in the ITU-R standard makes it more attractive: the data transfer through the network is using packets, using IP or internet protocol. The revolution brought out by Web 2.0 is quite conspicuous to be missed. User generated content literally ruled the web; portals and social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook became nothing less than cultural icons. Twitter helped revolutions! The web is still improving. Interactive applications like IPTV just changed our concept of Television broadcasting. All these are going to radically improve, perhaps beyond our imagination, once we switch over to 4G networks. The major challenge these applications facing is not the technology of themselves, but that of networks – information bottlenecks. Upload speeds are still a concern, all the more if it is a mobile platform. Here is where 4G comes into play with its amazing one gigabit per second data rate. The ultra-fast 4G could truly revolutionize our concept of interactive applications.
Cloud computing is another area, which is going to really cash on switching over to 4G networks. Increased speed, mobility and portability that 4G offers, is a shot in the arm for cloud computing applications. When people avoid capital expenditure on resources, the increased data transfer rate will be a must for applications to work smoothly. If you are saving your data on a server or running your favorite application from the server, (because you do not want a hard disk carried with you,) how much time can you afford to get the data down? Even couple of seconds would make the cloud computing unattractive. Cloud computing thus enables mobile phone sized stations to be acted as powerful computers, if and only if they are connected to something that offers a 4G speed in upload as well as download. The mobility offered makes the whole thing personal and portable, all the while being cost effective. Imagine, using the whole operating system itself through the cloud computing architecture. 4G makes this absolutely possible!
Internet of Things (IoT) is the next big thing to happen. It is dubbed as the future in which physical objects, even in our everyday life, are going to get networked. It is something similar to the present day RFID cards and other types of identification technologies. The day will not be far when our pen, book, shirts, shoes or parts of automobiles are equipped with minuscule identifying chips which exchanges information between them. Imagine the flow of information. It can doubtlessly be said 4G will be a significant step towards such an internet of things.
National broadband plan of the United States Federal Communications Commission envisions how a paradigmatic shift can be brought about in a number of areas like healthcare, education, economic opportunities, energy and environment, government performance, civic engagement and public safety by adopting broadband. Markets will be given new opportunities and consumers can avail new products. Using 4G, classroom experience can be dramatically altered. Both inside out and outside classrooms, learning can be more fun and interactive. Interactive applications and faster knowledge sharing will make healthcare cost-effective and time-saving. Modernization of electric grid would mean more energy conservation. 4G is environment friendly when the transmission power is utilized to carry more data, than previous generation technologies practically carried. The world is moving towards e-governance. Better service delivery through 4G technology is something that is desired across the globe. Broadband services enable the citizen to effectively utilize his right to information concerning government information. Another important feature of the 4G standards will be improved security of data. Due to its emphasis on robustness and security, the concerns about data theft would be minimized.
Summarizing, 4G can be said to give the best that a wireless network is desired of. It gives ultra hi-speed internet with portability, reliability and easy accessibility. While download and upload limits and speed reductions continue to worry our daily routines, adopting 4G is inevitable as well as imminent.