Q: What is a 4G wireless network and how does it differ from a 3G network?

– submitted by Ken Kelley

A: There is a lot of buzz in the technology industry about 4G wireless networks. As well, some wireless providers, such as Sprint and Clear, are advertising their 4G networks on TV and other mainstream media. As with many technology buzzwords, terms like 3G and 4G can be confusing to those who don’t spend all day studying the latest tech trends. Luckily, I am here to help explain!

The “G” in 3G and 4G stands for “generation”. In this case we are talking about digital cellular wireless networks. As with most technologies, the next generation is usually bigger or faster and that holds true for 4G wireless as well. 4G networks promise to deliver speeds much faster than today’s 3G networks. In fact, the speeds should be similar to cable or DSL services. What this will allow is for people to use the Internet while on the road just about as fast as they can at home or the office. For those who use the Internet a lot while on the road, this can mean a lot more productivity and flexibility in where to work. It will give people who can not get cable or DSL service another option for high-speed Internet service.

However, your current 3G phone or data device will not work with 4G networks. So of course, you’ll need to get a new phone or mobile data device to take advantage of a 4G network. Also, at this time, the only major cellular provider offering 4G networks is Sprint. Verizon and AT&T plan to start rolling out their 4G networks this fall, but likely won’t have coverage beyond major metropolitan areas until well into next year.

We are just on the verge of widespread 4G network availability. For many, the upgrade to 4G probably won’t be an option until late into next year. So for now, just keep an eye on the progress of the networks and likely by the time you’re ready for your next phone, you can consider 4G models.

If you have a technology question, feel free to submit it to me and it may be featured in a future article!