The Short, Fast & Crazy Life of 4G (So Far)

5:45 PM -- SAN DIEGO -- CTIA MobileCON 2012 -- People sometimes ask me at these trade shows what I think will help 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) really take off as a network technology... you know, really go mainstream.

The truth, as the last couple of weeks have shown, is that 4G in the U.S. is much, much further along in its development than, say, 3G was in 2004. It's just that mobility has become so much more a part of our lives in the intervening years.

Consider that now-defunct operator Monet Networks launched the first EV-DO 3G CDMA network back around this time in 2002. 3G network coverage in the U.S. was spotty for years among both GSM and CDMA carriers.

Chances are, many of you didn't get a 3G smartphone until Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) introduced a 3G iPhone in 2008, this despite the fact that there were several years of 3G introductions before Apple got in on the act.

Contrast that with now: Verizon Wireless doesn't plan on smartphones without LTE, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has just updated its portfolio with a plethora of new 4G offerings and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has 13 LTE devices and just 24 markets that support the 4G technology.

The model is actually flipped on what happened with 3G. The devices have arrived before the networks, even if you will soon find LTE in in 410 Verizon markets.

The why is relatively easy to understand, at least for carriers with capped data plans. LTE device users guzzle data, which should help to offset fading voice traffic for operators.

"More than 35 percent of our total data traffic in September was carried over the LTE network," Verizon Wireless CTO Nicola Palmer said early Tuesday at a press conference here. "With current trends as they are, within a few months that will be the majority of the traffic."

Verizon has sold LTE devices to 11 million monthly contract customers. That means that around 12 percent of its customer base consumes 35 percent of the data, and soon -- probably as the iPhone 5 gets around -- will grab more than 50 percent.

That's another growth spurt in the short and fast-paced life of LTE so far.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:19:27 PM
re: The Short, Fast & Crazy Life of 4G (So Far)

Lot's more devices, probably some definite adavances in how many radios can be combined on one device. That's what's really needed now, or you can kiss global 4G roaming behind.

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