Samsung: 4G Speed King

Samsung Corp. showed off what it is calling "fourth generation" (4G) wireless technology yesterday by demonstrating a 100-Mbit/s mobile connection in a bus being driven round Jeju Island in South Korea at speeds of up to 38 miles per hour.

The terms "4G" and "fourth generation" wireless technology get bandied about frequently in the hype-driven mobile market, but Samsung's 4G technology is the first that actually meets the technical definition of 4G from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) .

"The working definition for 4G from the 3G community is throughput of 100 Mbps or more, so the Samsung technology fits here," says Craig Mathias, analyst at the Farpoint Group . "Of course, how that 100 Mbps is measured isn't defined, but it is most certainly the layer-1 throughput." Farpoint Group's definition for 4G involves an all-IP, mobile, broadband, wireless system with support for "time-bounded" traffic, Mathias adds. "We don't tie 4G to a given throughput because typical users will see only a tiny fraction of the peak -- perhaps 2-4 Mbit/s, which, while more than adequate for most users, isn't anywhere near 100 Mbit/s."

The main difference that users will see from all these speed increases is the ability to maintain a much faster wireless data connection while driving or in some other mode of transport.

Analysts believe that Samsung's 4G technology is based on its existing mobile WiMax-derived WiBro technology, which is already deployed in its domestic market.

"[It's] WiMax -- pre-16e," says Ovum Ltd. 's Roger Entner.

"What they will be showing off is a WiMax 16e (mobile) capability, and probably showing off some new devices they are working on," agrees Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates.

But don't hold your breath for more wireless speed records. Reuters reports that Samsung is saying that it won't launch this technology until 2010.

It's also not yet clear how 4G advances might play into Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s launch of slower mobile WiMax in the U.S. in 2008. Samsung is one of the partners involved in the launch. (See Sprint Goes WiMax.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

Sign In