Verizon detailed today the launch of their next generation 4G network. 4G has been talked about this year heavily as Sprint has been heavily promoting the fact that they were the first carrier to launch a 4G network in the United States. Sprints 4G network is based on a technology called WiMax where Verizon’s launch is on a technology called LTE.
So the real question is why should anyone care about 4G and what does it mean for the broader consumer technology industry. Let’s explore.
The reality is every major carrier in the country is going to move to 4G at some point in time. While the mobile phone market was maturing it was all about the voice network. Carriers competed on coverage, voice quality, network reliability etc.
Those battles will still exist however the value is moving from the voice network to the data network. This is because of the rise of smart phones and smart devices where data becomes a more central part of the device experience.
The battlefield going forward will be which carriers have the fastest data network and that is where LTE comes into play. 3G networks had a fundamental problem and it wasn’t the speed. 3G networks were built for faster data but failed at handling a lot of concurrent consumers consuming data per network node. In essence if a lot of people in a particular city or area were on the 3G data network at the same time the network slowed down drastically.
LTE looks to solve this problem by not only being faster with download speeds ranging from 6-12 MBS realistically but also to handle more data consumers per network node. This is the part that is a big deal. If it proves true then the carriers will start being more aggressive with their pricing for data plans. They will want to recoup those costs of the new network and since data is where the new value is I expect very aggressive data plans as the networks get established.
These faster data networks will be key to future consumer experiences with mobile devices. Sharing video, capturing and sharing live video, multiple party video conferencing, playing multiplayer graphically rich games in real time, etc all require faster bandwidth and networks that can handle millions of people consuming that data at the same time. The Qik application for iPhone and Android, for example demonstrates all the things that 4G will make better.
This move is good news for consumers and for the industry. Faster data speeds add value to the innovations we want to crank out over the next few years. Having cheaper access to these faster data networks lowers the barrier for consumers to begin using these new innovations.