Frequently Asked Questions on 4G

By Zahid Ghadialy

Last Updated: 14/05/2006

What is 4G Wireless Technology?

At present 2G Technology (GSM) is widely used worldwide. The problem with 2G technology is that the data rates are limited. This makes it ineffecient for Data Transfer applications like video conferencing, music or video downloads, etc. To increase the speed various new technologies have come into picture. The first is 2.5G (GPRS) technology that allows data transfer at a better rate than GSM and recently 3G (WCDMA/UMTS) technology has come into picture. The maximum theoretical data transfer with this 3G technology is 2Mbps (practically it could be a max of 384Kbps or even less). The 4G technology which is at its infancy is suppose to allow data transfer upto 100Mbps outdoor and 1Gbps indoor.

When is the 4G Technology going to be launched?

NTT Docomo is planning to launch 4G sevices in Japan around 2010-2015. Earlier it announced that it would be launching the service in 2006-2008. But at the same time it has said that the data transfer would be maximum of 20Mbps. Recently they have started calling this intermediate launch as 'Super-3G'.

So is it only the Japanese Companies that are working toward 4G?

Not really. NTT-DoCoMo is jointly developing 4G with HP. A the same time Korean companies like Samsung and LG are also looking into 4G. In Europe companies like Siemens are also working on this. Recently Japan, China and South Korea has started working together on the technology and they plan to standardise it together. See News section for more detail.

What would be the main features of 4G Technology?

The 4G technology will be able to support Interactive services like Video Conferencing (with more than 2 sites simultaneously), Wireless Internet,etc. The bandwidth would be much wider (100 MHz) and data would be transferred at much higher rates. The cost of the data transfer would be comparatively very less and global mobility would be possible. The networks will be all IP networks based on IPv6. The antennas will be much smarter and improved access technologies like OFDM and MC-CDMA (Multi Carrier CDMA) will be used. Also the security features will be much better.

What are the likely new features?

The entire network would be packet switched (IP based). All switches would be digital. Higher bandwidths would be available which would make cheap data transfer possible. The network security would be much tighter. Also QoS will imrpove. More effecient algorithms at the Physical layer will reduce the Inter-channel Interference and Co-channel Interference.

Is HSDPA part of 4G Wireless technology?

No. HSDPA is part of 3G technology. See HSDPA Tutorial for more details.

Is 'Super-3G' same as 4G Wireless technology?

No. As mentioned earlier, 'Super-3G' is an intermediate stage between 3G and 4G. In this stage the operators are planning to achieve data rates upto 100Mbps when travelling at speeds upto 100Kmph. Complete information is not yet available on this topic.

Why go for 'Super-3G' technology? Why not directly jump to 4G?

The main reason is that the mobile operators are scared of WiMax since they have invested massive amounts in 3G licenses and infrastructure. They want to have a network better than WiMax so they need this 'Super-3G'. Also the operators want to compete with each other so if they see one operator going for 'Super-3G', all of them want to jump in the bandwagon.

Is LTE a 4G technology?

Long-Term (Radio) Evolution or LTE is also part of 3G technology. Its a 3GPP research item for Release 8. Its also known as 3.9G or “Super 3G” by some researchers. Its planned to be commercialised in 2009. It aims at peak data rates of 200 Mbps (DL) and 100 Mbps (UL).

Are there any other interesting features planned for 4G Wireless Technology?

Well, researchers are working on highly advanced features like speaking without using vocal cords, communicating using our senses and knowing which direction the call is coming from, how far your friends are, etc. Most of these features would not be ready in time for 4G, but will come as they say, in time for 5G (Fifth Generation) technology.

Interesting! Can you expand on this fifth generation (5G) wirreless features?

One of the features is that you will be able to smell the background of the other person on the phone. Say if someone is cooking something and he wants you to smell it, he will be able to do that. Other feature is that you can speak without enitting any voice. This could be used in case you are in Library (or in Exam Hall?) and you cannot speak out loudly. You will be able to communicate just by moving your mouth. Please note that all these features are at initial stage of research and is not viable long time to come.

I have heard some people referring to WiMax as 4G wireless technology, is that true?

The WiMax lobby and the people who are working with the WiMax technology are trying to push WiMax as the 4G wireless technology. At present there is no consensus among people to refer to this as the 4G wireless technology. I do not think this is popular with the researching community. WiMax can deliver upto 70 Mbps over a 50Km radius. As mentioned above, with 4G wireless technology people would like to acheive upto 1Gbps (indoors). WiMax does not satisfy the criteria completely. Also WiMax technology (802.16d) does not support mobility very well. To overcome the mobility problem, 802.16e or Mobile WiMax is being standardised. The important thing to remember here is that all the researches for 4G technology is based around OFDM. WiMax is also based on OFDM. This gives more credibility to the WiMax lobby who would like to term WiMax as a 4G technology. Since there is no consensus for the time being, we have to wait and see who would be the winner.

Are there any forums like the 3GPP where i can get more information?

Not really. There are no special forums that have been formed for discussion about 4G Standards. However there is are some websites that have research information on 4G technology. The websites are as follows:

WWRF - Wireless World Research Forum
Mobile IT Forum, Japan
WSI - Wireless Strategic Initiative
MAGNET (My personal Adaptive Global NET)
WINNER (Wireless World Initiative New Radio)

Any other links available on this topic?

Please see the following Links for more information:

Where can i find all the latest News on this topic?

Please see the following links for latest News on this topic:


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