Now that we're all pretty sure we understand what 3G stands for (or represents), it's time to move on to 4G. To review, the “real” definition for 3G is 384kbits/s. That's the speed for a mobile device. That high rate results in a host of applications/features that are more like what a consumer would equate with 3G. The more widely recognized definition by consumers is that the bandwidth is high enough to permit voice calls, video calls, and wireless data, all in a mobile environment.
For a long time, I would tell people who may not have understood the technical definition for 3G that it was really the melding of cellular and WiFi. That's obviously not technically correct, but it lets people understand that a 3G handset is one that allows you to access the Internet as well as make phone calls.
It's somewhat ironic that 4G can be described by a similar definition, with respect to features and applications. In addition to those previously mentioned, it could include the addition of a WiFi/WiMax interface for voice, video, or data. It also includes a more comprehensive security solution.
Some of the objectives that the 4G Working Group has defined for its communication standard include a nominal 100-Mbit/s data rate while the client (handset) physically moves at high speeds relative to the base station, and 1 Gbit/s while the client and station are in relatively fixed positions; a smooth handoff across heterogeneous networks (wouldn't that be nice); seamless connectivity and global roaming across multiple networks (again, sounds good, but is quite difficult to implement); and support for next generation multimedia applications, such as HDTV video content, mobile TV.
What got me to thinking about this 3G-4G stuff is a couple of visits I've made recently with two of the cellular power-amplifier (PA) vendors. One, Anadigics is recognized by some to be the leader in PA technology. They offer a really low-power device in a small package. The second is a vendor with a soon to be announced part that–if it meets the claims the company is making–is further ahead than anything I've come across. If it's true, you'll see higher integration within your handset pretty soon.
Richard Nass is editorial director of TechInsights. He can be reached at .