updated 11:00 am EDT, Tue July 7, 2009
Vodafone on 4G at 15Mbps
Vodafone's research director Professor Michael Walker today told the Wireless 2.0 conference that 4G cellular data based on the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard is not only better at keeping speeds in the real world but has the potential to replace wired Internet access. The official explained that the average download bandwidth in a recent field trial was about 15Mbps, or several times faster than good 3G access. While well short of the 100Mbps theoretical peak, he added that it was much improved over 3G behavior, where actual speeds have often been further away from the 3.6Mbps and higher often promised for those networks.
"3G was going to give [1Mbps] but in some places you were lucky to get [300kbps]," Walker said. "It's not going to be like that with LTE."
Supporting his claim, extra tests in the trial showed 4G topping out at 20Mbps very near the cell station but a still-usable 1.3Mbps on the very fringe.
The researcher adds that 4G at its best is as fast as fiber-to-the-home service and suggests that a very optimized service could compete with landlines as a result. WiMAX has often been treated this way but uses up three times as much wireless spectrum and so isn't as efficient as LTE, Walker said. It's also the first real opportunity for cellular carriers to offer their regular networks as a substitute for many common Internet tasks as it has both much reduced lag compared to 3G as well as better support for multiple users on the same access point.
Vodafone will be one of the key early users of 4G in Europe but will see wide support for the format in North America, where AT&T, Bell, T-Mobile, Telus and Verizon have all pledged to have LTE networks active between 2010 and 2011. Other carriers like Rogers and US Cellular are also believed to be onboard but haven't detailed their exact plans. Sprint for now hinges its 4G support on WiMAX.