The Economist writes about the next-generation wireless networks:
What if you could combine Wi-Fi-style internet access with the blanket coverage, and fewer base-stations, of a mobile network? The various 4G technologies developed by such firms as IPWireless, Flarion, Navini, ArrayComm and Broadstorm offer just such a blend. There is no formal definition of 4G, but what such technologies have in common, says Andy Fuertes, an analyst at Visant Strategies, a research firm, is that they are high-speed wireless networks covering a wide area, designed above all for carrying data, rather than voice or a mixture of the two. They can pipe data to and from mobile devices at broadband speed, typically 10-20 times faster than a dial-up modem connection.
Such 4G wireless-broadband systems can be seen in two ways: as a rival to Wi-Fi that offers wider coverage, or as a wireless alternative to the cable and digital subscriber-line (DSL) technologies that now provide broadband access to homes and offices. Mostly, the wireless operators evaluating 4G see it as the first, and fixed-line telecoms operators as the second. But the convergence of wireless and broadband, argues Chris Gilbert of IPWireless, is actually entirely new: a fast internet connection that follows you around. Navini calls it nomadic broadband; ArrayComm’s term is personal broadband. Mike Gallagher of Flarion, a firm backed by Cisco, likens Wi-Fi to cordless phones that work within a limited range of a base-station, whereas 4G is akin to mobile phones that work anywhere.