What is 4G? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

What is 4G?

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Remember when getting on the internet meant dialing up?  How about when your phone was just a phone?  Today's smart phones are mini-computers in the palm of your hand.  Most wireless customers are looking for speed, and now wireless providers are rolling out the next generation of technology, 4G. 

"We definitely have come a long way from the original first generation phones where you'd be able to get on your phone and make a call," says Verizon Wireless Supervisor Nic Bontrager who works in Michiana.  Bontrager is almost giddy about where we are now.  Verizon just flipped the switch on its 4G-LTE network in five Michiana Cities.  "It is the new wave of the future," he says. 

4G stands for Fourth Generation.  LTE means Long Term Evolution.  Put simply, we're talking speed.  AT&T's 4G LTE is live in five markets now, but South Bend is not one of them.  "AT&T plans to launch 4G LTE in 15 or more markets by the end of the year," an AT&T spokesperson tells FOX 28 News.  The company has not announced any specific plans for Indiana.

Northern Indiana Director of Sales Jason Currie touts the company's HSPA+, an upgrade to the network that is currently available in Michiana.  Currie says the popular iPhone 4S works on the HSPA+ network.  Currie is excited about where wireless technology is now, and where it's going from here.  "Eventually wireless will serve as the main ability to access the internet," he says. 

Sprint is also currently expanding its 4G footprint.  It is not available in Michiana yet, but a company spokesperson tells FOX 28, Sprint is currently expanding its 4G network to cover 250 million people.  That expansion is expected to start by the middle of 2012.

We could throw more terms at you, or claims from companies about who has, or will have, the fastest 4G LTE network, but the bottom line is this:  When we're talking 4G LTE, we're talking about faster download speeds and web surfing.  You have to ask yourself, how do I use my mobile device?  Sascha Segan, a tech-columnist for pcmag.com pretty much sums it up when he writes, "If you don't care about the Web speeds on your phone or modem, then you probably don't care about 4G."

If you want to download music, or get a movie on your smart phone, then wireless experts say you'll definitely see a blazing fast difference.  For music, we're talking seconds instead of minutes.  For movies, minutes instead of hours.  "You're just going to be like, ‘Oh! It's up and running it's that quick,'" says Bontrager.

Robert O'Donnell is a smart phone user who is looking for faster speeds.  He's from LaPorte, and drove into South Bend to pick up a 4G compatible phone after using a friend's 4G device.

"It was like a whole new system.  My phone would take a minute to two minutes to load up and his was basically loaded up before I had my address punched up," O'Donnell says. 

For a guy like O'Donnell spending the money on a 4G device made sense.  "It was just very impressive.  I decided, I've got an upgrade available, I'm going to use it," he says.  You know how technology works, as soon as we get used to this 4G thing, we'll start talking about 5G.  "We're going to go places you just can't imagine," Bontrager says. 

FOX 28 News conducted an unscientific test to see how much faster a smart phone would run on Verizon's 4G LTE network compared to the company's 3G network.  We used a Droid Bionic, and the free app called Speedtest.net in three different locations; Downtown Elkhart, Eddy Street Commons across from Notre Dame in South Bend and in Downtown Mishawaka.

We saw the following results: 

Downtown Elkhart: 

  • Verizon 4G LTE:  Test Average 31.74 Mbps Download, 8.51 Upload
  • Verizon 3G:  Test Average 1.72 Mbps Download, .70 Upload

Eddy Street Commons:

  • Verizon 4G LTE:  Test Average 17.34 Mbps Download, 11.60 Upload
  • Verizon 3G:  Test Average 1.63 Mbps Download, .79 Upload

Downtown Mishawaka:

  • Verizon 4G LTE:  Test Average 8.72 Mbps Download, .95 Upload
  • Verizon 3G:  Test Average 1.84 Mbps Download, .89 Upload
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