Now that we've all gotten used to the concept of 3G, it's time to look ahead to 4G. Mobile broadband over 3G EV-DO and EDGE networks currently delivers real-time traffic info, video clips, push e-mail and internet access to most large cities across the U.S. There still isn't a clear delineation between that and 4G, but the next generation's upside potential could be fixed download speeds in the 1Gbps neighborhood and downloads at 100Mbps when you're on the move. That's a whole lot of bandwidth, but you're going to have to wait for it. Large-scale commercial 4G networks aren't expected until 2010, and Japan and South Korea will likely lead the way in rollouts.
Some big companies have been dropping big hints about 4G. Samsung recently conducted a field demonstration of its 4G technology in South Korea. Sprint Nextel--along with partners Intel, Motorola and Samsung--also announced a 4G wireless broadband initiative based on the mobile WiMAX technology standard. They expect download speeds between 2Mbps and 4Mbps and a relatively fast deployment. The Sprint network should be in trials by the end of 2007.
For entrepreneurs, 4G should bring better mobile internet access and more powerful wireless multimedia applications for laptops and other devices. But as we learned with 3G, it can take time for services to become available.
--Amanda C. Kooser
Call for Service
Make your phone your own with services tailored to you.
So-called mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, are buying up capacity from traditional wireless telecom carriers and offering up phones tailored to specific audiences. Service revenue related to MVNO offerings is expected to reach $10.7 billion by 2010 according to a Yankee Group prediction, and operators focused on entrepreneurs are vying for a piece.
In particular, carriers are embracing search applications that can tie Yellow Pages-type listings and other special content to where a user physically happens to be, says Collin Holmes, vice president of product management for V-Enable, a San Diego company that provides technology for making such searches possible through voice commands.
"Most of this content today is very hard to find with a mobile phone browser," Holmes says. "All the carriers are focused on a better user experience."
Among those hoping to claim a piece of your cell phone bill, with services ranging from integrated home wireless voice mailboxes to bundled international long-distance and translation services, are
Atlanta-based Cbeyond; Embarq in Overland Park, Kansas; Los Angeles-based TelePlus Group; and Voce in Beverly Hills, California.
Heather Clancy, editor of technology newsweekly CRN, has been covering the industry for 14 years.