HD video demands – at pretty decent color depth & resolution – about 15-25 megs. (Well, unless you’re trying to deal with uncompressed 1080i HD, which calls for about 400 megs – but the only reason to do that is to capture/edit, rather than watch, which is a whole other can o’ crawlies.) That means that a 4G phone is basically the final linking device to provide the addressable TV & instant content delivery that we’ve all been blathering about for the last 20 years.
This article on Gizmodo is about the clearest, best-written piece I’ve stumbled across in the last year or so of baking my noodle in the alphabet soup broth of mobile media acronyms.
But what’s so special about WiMax and LTE? And how fast can they really get? Very simply, West told us, “The magic is the channel width.” LTE and WiMax use really fat wireless channels, so they can move a lot of data at once. For example, AT&T’s Kafka told us that “peak speed for LTE in 10MHz is about 140Mbps and peak speed in 20MHz is about 300Mbps.”
Did you see that? 300Mbps? Over the air? Whoooa. Well, don’t let your panties get blown away yet. Yes, 4G will be way faster than 3G. But don’t expect Asian city internet speeds wirelessly in the next couple of years. Clearwire’s Barry West throws a bit of cold water on the ridiculously scorching speeds you might see hyped for LTE: To get to that 170Mbps, “that’s like 8.5 bits per hertz and I’ve never seen a system achieve more than 5 bits per hertz.” Huh? Basically, it doesn’t take a whole lot of interference to slow your connection down, because it and WiMax use a complicated modulation scheme that you can’t have constantly cranked to 11. So real world speeds will be slower.
This, coupled with the laser-projection capabilities being built into the next phones, and the ever-smaller and higher-rez cameras, is pointing to one helluva information device in the future – one that can capture, upload, download and display crystal-clear video.
“In the future everyone will be a television network. For 15 minutes.”
4G: 4th-Generation cellphone. The big clunky analog beasts that we used up til the late 90s were 1G. The switchover to digital (when bad connections were echo-y and robot-sounding rather than crackly and static like bad radio reception) put us to 2G. iPhones operated at 2.5G, which means data rates of about 200K. The faster data rate is 3G.
CDMA/1XRTT/EVDO: The compression & transmission technology sets used by Verizon and Sprint. Popular in Korea, Japan, South America and U.S.
GSM/EDGE/HSDPA: The data transmission sets used by AT&T and T-mobile. Everyone in Europe uses GSM technology. It allows you to swap SIM cards between phones, but is slightly less efficient than CDMA.
LTE/WiMax: The coming data transmission standards that phone companies have been beating to death for the past 10 years. LTE = Long Term Evolution. This is a the data speed that will also be known as 4G.