Call it 4G insanity. It's the ceaseless stream of wireless and smartphone commercials that you see online and on TV. Those ads tout the magical properties of this newest wireless network, one that promises to do everything but sweep your floors and cook dinner. They say – these service providers and carriers – that 4G is about to change your life.
A lot of the hype is marketing nonsense, of course, but once you investigate beyond the ads, you'll see that 4G really does have the power to alter aspects of your life.
What is 4G, exactly? Well, it's the latest incarnation (the fourth generation, thus the 4 and the G) of the networks that make cell phones work. In the 1980s and '90s, 1G and 2G networks mostly handled voice and simple digital data. In the 2000s, 3G marked the beginning of mobile Internet access.
Now comes 4G. There's no agreed upon standard for 4G, and wireless companies stretch the term for all it's worth. But in short, any network that's substantially faster than 3G is fair game for the 4G label. That includes upgraded 3G networks as well as fresh networks, like 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution), built for zippy speeds that'll keep them relevant for years to come.
4G networks offer faster service and can provide smartphone-sizzling speeds to many users at the same time. Those capabilities open up a new horizon of opportunities for all sorts of novel wireless applications that might simplify our lives, keep us better connected and yes, perhaps even change the way we work and play. And this massive evolutionary leap into 4G is just now getting underway.