written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 5/10/2011
4G is the latest in mobile technology, providing faster speeds on your phone than even Wi-Fi. Currently, the AT&T 4G network offers two layers of speed coverage, allowing users to download faster, watch videos faster, and send text messages faster than ever before.
slide 1 of 5
Mobile technology has grown in leaps and bounds, allowing for endless conversations to take place from wherever a person may be. Be it the use of text messaging or that of email, the ways in which people can use a cell phone is increasing thanks to the power of mobile communications.
One of the newest pieces of this technology is that of 4G, a technology that is widely regarded as being on par, or even faster, than that of not only 3G, but wireless Internet technology as well. The major US cell carriers are all scrambling to get their networks and customers on this faster mobile speed; The 4G network provided by AT&T, for example, now offers two layers of speed coverage in order for users to get their emails faster, watch YouTube videos faster, and send messages quicker than before.
slide 2 of 5
What is 4G?
By now, many cell phone users have heard the term 4G and whether or not their phone carrier offers it or not, but what exactly is 4G? Essentially, 4G is a type of mobile technology that allows users to receive broadband data transmissions in a much faster capacity than the 3G network and even wireless transmissions.
It means that the YouTube videos that you watch on your cell phone will load faster, web pages that you browse will load faster, as well as getting emails sent and received in a much quicker fashion. In terms of mobile users, this new technology is looking to offer many advantages over that of 3G, such as allowing for cell phones to co-exist on different bands (such as an American using their phone in the UK).
Currently, the four major cell phone carriers in the US - AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon - all offer some 4G coverage, depending on area, with plans to expand these areas.
slide 3 of 5
4G at AT&T
AT&T's 4G network currently runs on something called High Speed Packet Access, or HSPA for short. This is a type of broadband network that the carrier just recently upgraded to in order to enhance their already fast network. Along with HSPA+, AT&T has plans for the middle of 2011 to upgrade to the popular Long Term Evolution network (LTE), becoming the only carrier to offer two types of 4G network speeds.
In terms of the speed of 4G, currently AT&T offers speeds up to 6Mbps. This means that downloads at this speed are much faster than that of the previous generation of 3G phones and networks; as mentioned, this means that many multimedia items such as videos and webpages will load much faster on this network speed.
slide 4 of 5
What This Means for Customers of AT&T
With AT&T launching its LTE network in 2011, customers of the carrier will be able to take advantage of both the speeds of LTE and that of HSPA+.
The downsides to this are of course phones and coverage. As with the other mobile carriers, 4G is still growing, so while many areas offer 4G networks, many areas don't. This is a major issue, especially with those users who end up buying phones that are capable of 4G speeds, but are unable to use them due to lack of coverage.
There is also the added monthly price for a data plan, something that is required for using 4G coverage, plus a customer must be using a 4G enabled cell or smartphone in order to enjoy the benefits of the technology. AT&T has introduced a line of 4G smartphones, such as the Motorola Atrix, the HTC Inspire and the Samsung Infuse.
Luckily, as the network itself grows, those users who have 4G capable phones are still able to use the widely known 3G networks, while awaiting for 4G to build within their city or state. The AT&T 4G network is still slightly behind that of its competitors, however with the upgrade to that of LTE, the company may be on par with the other carriers. It is not yet known whether having the two layers of 4G coverage will help or hinder AT&T customers, but the possibilities are there.
slide 5 of 5
AT&T Answer Center, http://www.wireless.att.com/answer-center/main.jsp?t=solutionTab&ft=&ps=solutionPanels&locale=&_dyncharset=UTF-8&solutionId=KB115943