4G Wireless Networks: Data and Bandwidth Improvements
How much faster is 4G compared against 3G? The speed of 3G networks depends on how they are implemented. By 2010 Verizon (a CDMA network) had reached the limits of its 3G network speed in the United States. 4G networks allowed Verizon the ability to offer transmission speeds up to four times faster than its current 3G network. AT&T’s 3G network, however, is based on GSM. The GSM design left AT&T room to upgrade its current 3G speeds. “…it is anticipated that when AT&T upgrade[s] their 3G networks, their speeds will become comparable to 4G from…Verizon. (Diffen, 2011)”
For AT&T, the first 3G specification was WCDMA, and was based on the CDMA standard. For Verizon, the first 3G specification was 1X, followed by EV-DO. The same audio and video formats are used in 3GPP2 as in 3GPP with the addition of QCELP speech. Over time, AT&T and Verizon are expected to merge their (GSM and CDMA, respectively) networks into the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard supported by both 3GPP and 3GPP2.
| Up to 3.1mbps
| 3 to 5 Mbps; estimated range of 100 to 300 Mbps.
| Peak Upload Rate:
| 50 Mbit/s
| 500 Mbit/s
Peak Download Rate:
| 100 Mbit/s
| 1 Gbit/s
| packet switching
| packet switching, message switching
| Network Architecture:
| Wide Area Cell Based
| Integration of wireless LAN and Wide area.
| Services And Applications:
| CDMA 2000, UMTS, EDGE etc.
| Wimax2 and LTE-Advance
| Forward error correction (FEC):
| 3G uses Turbo codes for error correction.
| Concatenated codes are used for error corrections in 4G.
| 1.8 – 2.5GHz
| 2 – 8GHz
(The Associated Press, 2010) (Diffen, 2011)
As shown in the table above, the services and applications used by 3G are CDMA 2000, UMTS, EDGE, and others. UMTS utilizes the FOMA, WCDMA and HSPA air interface technologies, and UMTS networks can co-exist with earlier 2.5G GSM/EDGE networks. Using the 2 GHz band, UMTS offers global roaming and personalized features. 4G primarily uses WiMax2 and LTE-Advance. Established in 1998, 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) is a set of international standards for the promotion of high-speed cellular services known as 3G. It works on GSM carriers such as AT&T, while 3GPP2 deals with CDMA carriers like Verizon.
The network architecture differs greatly, also: 3G is based on wide area cellular service (think towers), while 4G utilizes an integration of both wide area and LAN-based services. This improves mobile service for nomadic users and helps to relieve bandwidth congestion in urban areas by offloading data to local wireless hotspots and onto a wired backbone, rather than relying solely on cellular service. This increases the effective data throughput for all users. Data throughput for 3G tops out at about 3-to-5 Mbps realistically, but can theoretically handle up to 100 Mbps. 4G is theoretically much faster, with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. “In 2011, various tests of all carriers in the U.S. touting 4G capabilities reported a wide range of results, with download speeds from 1.5 to 19 Mbps and upload speeds from .8 to 13 Mbps. (Computer Desktop Encyclopedia, 2011)” User perceptions are varied, depending on their provider and geographical location. Urban areas are much more congested, which degrades service for those users. There is only so much wireless spectrum available, and cities, like New York and Los Angeles, place a heavy burden on the spectrum available. The spectrum crunch is not an inherently American problem, but its effects are magnified here, since the United States has an enormous population of connected users. This country serves more than twice as many customers per megahertz of spectrum as the next nearest spectrum-constrained nations, Japan and Mexico. When spectrum runs short, service degrades sharply: calls get dropped and data speeds slow down (Goldman, 2012)....
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