Some time ago we wrote about the differences between GPRS and all the different versions of 3G and what they meant to Rugged PDA users. However since then time has moved on and so has the technology so we’re going to look at the very latest in mobile network technology today, namely LTE or 4G.
So what is LTE?
LTE stands for “Long Term Evolution” and is the next generation in mobile network, commonly referred to as “4G”. As you’ll have probably noticed last week the new iPhone 5 is an LTE enabled phone and pretty much every new release of smartphone will probably now sport LTE connectivity. There is a rival to LTE in the “4G” stakes in WIMAX with the USA and countries like S. Korea taking this technology on instead but it seems to be LTE in the UK that will be the technology the we base our new super fast 4G mobile networks upon.
Whats the difference from 3G or HSDPA?
Well 3G technologies are the way we currently connect to the mobile networks for data usage and up until now have been the fastest way to do so. 3G kept getting upgraded so you’ll see terms like HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA, HSPA+ all being incremental upgrades to the technology. 4G is a totally new technology, it requires a full new rollout across the countries mobile network masts and it is a far better technology to grow with our ever growing data consumption needs.
Why is the technology different?
3G has really reached it’s limits. When it was originally deployed I don’t think anyone imagined that 100Mbps or even more speeds were going to be demanded by users. 4G not only enables these kinds of speeds but it is also built to be far more flexible with data needs. It should be far more future proof with fixed speeds already reaching Gigabit levels, it also uses bandwidth far more economically and the systems has a better coverage so we should get a more level coverage as its rolled out.
OK, I’m a Layman, what does this mean for me?
It means far faster mobile access with proposed speeds of 100Mbps, compared to the 3 or 4 we get now. In fact I’ve been checking my 3G data speeds quite regularly and I rarely get over 1.3 to 1.5 Mbps on my iPhone 4. It’ll also be a more robust technology so coverage should be better and the general network should become slicker when using it. Lastly the nature of LTE means that it should be far more power friendly, so running LTE instead of 3G on your device could also have many benefits other like extending the life of your battery.
Absolutely. Your GPRS and 3G devices are safe for now and will still offer the best coverage until LTE rollouts are completed. However any phone or RIgged PDA you have right now will still be able to connect t the 3G network and most devices coming out now will have dual 4G and 3G and GPRS chips making them work on anything!
When’s it coming?
Well it’s already here with countries like the USA and many others already adopting it and building the speeds up gradually. In the UK Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile to you and me!) have got a head start on O2, Vodafone and 3 and are already rolling out their LTE service now with the rest about 6 months behind. We’re told people are getting about 15-20Mbps out of their Samsung Galaxies right now!
Why bother with LTE?
OK, so we’re in the “Rugged” market, no-one is downloading movies, games or consuming data like smart phone users right? Well I’m not so sure to be honest. I think we’ve been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to Data usage and LTE will drive far more solutions, make flakey, beta applications far more robust and above all I think we’ll see far better connected, live and wonderful solutions built on top of a platform that can pump out 20Mbps when it needs to. Machine to Machine communication is also growing rapidly but the data connection can often hold back M2M solutions both by its bandwidth and power usage.
We’ll keep you posted of devices as they come out and as the technology gets utilised.
The Rugged and Mobile blog.