Let’s hope Sprint is enjoying being ahead of the pack in launching 4G technology, because it looks like Verizon is catching up quickly. Sprint partnered with Clearwire, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and Google to build its 4G network, and has already launched it in 27 markets using WiMax technology. The group plans to expand that network into at least eight more cities this year, including New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Sprint has also stated its intention to launch the first 4G phone this summer. That gives them a year to make the most of that head start before Verizon jumps in. 4G wireless networks offer increased download and upload speeds, making smartphone Web access a better experience. While Verizon has said its tests have shown download speeds of 40Mbps to 50Mbps, the average speeds seen with 4G technology are around 5Mbps to 12Mbps. Even those slower speeds are better than what is currently provided by 3G, which averages 400Kbps to 700Kbps. But temper the hype with a little education, and don’t be taken in by claims of super speeds that may be attainable in tests, but are not realistic in real world usage. Verizon expects to launch its 4G network by late this year, or early next, and then its first handset three to six months later. While this sounds ambiguous, and a long way off in technological terms, it’s still about six months earlier than they previously speculated. There’s still no word on what types of phones they’ll launch, or what handset manufacturer will make them, but we’ll probably see that information come out later this year. In fact, Sprint’s summertime launch would be an excellent time for Verizon to release news of its 4G phone to steal a little thunder from their competitor. While all this is going on with Sprintand Verizon, AT&T is also working on a 4G network, and also plans to launch it, and 4G phones next year. The problem is, AT&T is still spending money to beef up its 3G network to alleviate issues caused by high data usage, and spotty coverage. It would be interesting to see Sprint surpass AT&T to become the number two carrier behind Verizon, but AT&T would have to lose a lot of customers to Sprint for that to happen, and as long as AT&T is able to exclusively offer the iPhone, there’s little chance of that happening. Still, don’t start readying your 3G handset for the recycle bin just yet. A lot more testing needs to be done, and the 4G networks need to be expanded quite a bit more before they’re able to replace the existing 3G networks. Both could run concurrently for quite a while before 4G becomes the standard. And by then, we’ll probably be hearing about the emergence of 5G.
Verizon to launch 4G phone in mid-2011
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