Sure, right now you can use your 3G phone for video calls, YouTube clips and sometimes even streaming live TV. But when network congestion is high, that video stutters, skips and becomes generally unwatchable.
4G will be a lot faster, and those speed increases are necessary. With data traffic expected to explode by 33 times before 2020, older networks will be strained to the breaking point [source: 3GPP]. More and more people using video will bog down networks further.
4G isn't the cure-all for every video scenario. For example, you probably won't be watching high-definition live sports on a mobile device anytime in the next few years. But when it comes to standard definition, 4G should offer a big improvement over 3G, which, although fast, rarely tops more than 1.5 mbps (megabits-per-second) at peak hours [source: Salon].
Improved 4G networks, however, could provide you with an average of 10 to 20 mbps, according to Richard Karpinksi, senior mobility analyst at Yankee Group. That's faster than the speeds many people get through their hardwired home computers connected to cable modems and DSL.
So those futuristic video calls you used to see on TV shows and movies? Yeah, those are coming, and soon, thanks to 4G. Throw in other video applications of all kinds, and your smartphone will be a hub for video that fits right in your pocket.