How 4G Works

4G's Impact and Future

"Ubiquitous 4G will be a game-changer," says Richard Karpinksi, senior mobility analyst at Yankee Group. "It will impact business, education, retail and much more."But carriers and their data-loving users should be realistic about the speeds 4G promises. "Once any network begins to become fully-loaded with users it begins to slow down." That's why he says that if a large number of mobile users are able to see download speeds between 10 to 20Mbps in the next couple of years, it will be a significant accomplishment.

Although you likely won't see stream HD video anytime in the next few years, 4G will enable glitch-free video calls, YouTube videos, and more. That's of course if you're willing to pay for them. Data plans on 4G networks will be pricy compared to 3G, and you may face data caps that hamper the fun.

That's why you'll see carriers offering more on-demand quality of service upgrades. For example, imagine that you're waiting for the kids to finish their shopping at the mall and you want to watch a football game on your phone. You've already reached your data limit; plus, there are so many people at the mall that the system is slow. But you can authorize a one-time charge to your account, receive a temporary upgrade in service and speed, and watch the game in real-time.

Of course, that's all provided that your battery isn't dead. Because 4G signals are sparser than 3G, phones expend more power searching for 4G reception, meaning you might not even get a single full day out of your phone. Plus, the phones themselves are getting more powerful features that also kill batteries in a hurry. These devices will need beefing up in order to keep pace with their own capabilities.

The Web continues to sprawl across our world, both virtually and in the hardware and software that makes it work. No matter where you live, you can expect that faster, more powerful 4G networks will eventually arrive, heralding a new era of mobile Internet access. If you're a tech and gadget lover, you'll rejoice at the expanding reach of these wireless technologies – the Internet, and the world, will soon be at your fingertips like never before.