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4G wireless: It’s fast, but outstripped by hype


Cell phone companies are about to barrage consumers with advertising for the next advance in wireless network technology, reports the Associated Press: “4G” access. The companies are promising faster speeds and the thrill of being the first on the block to use a new acronym. But there’s less to 4G than meets the eye, and there might be little reason for people to scramble for it, at least for the next few years. Sprint Nextel Corp. is the first carrier to beat the drum for fourth-generation wireless technology. It’s releasing its first 4G phone, the EVO, this week. In the fall, Verizon Wireless will be firing up its 4G network in 25 to 30 cities, and a smaller provider, MetroPCS Communications Inc., is scheduled to introduce its first 4G phone around the same time. Broadly speaking, 4G is a new way to use the airwaves, designed for the transmission of data rather than phone calls. To do that, it borrows aspects of the latest generation of Wi-Fi, the short-range wireless technology. For consumers, 4G ideally means faster access to data. For instance, streaming video and video conferencing might work better, with less stuttering and higher resolution. Multiplayer video games might benefit, too. Still, the improvement from 3G to 4G is not as dramatic as the step from 2G to 3G, which for the first time made real web browsing, video, and music downloads practical on phones…

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