There’s a good chance residents of Boston and Seattle will
have a new high-speed wireless broadband option before the end of this year—Verizon
recently announced plans to test its 4G wireless broadband service
in these cities. The new wireless data service promises speeds that are five to
10 times faster than the service used today by popular handsets such as Apple’s
While today’s 3G
networks are adequate for checking email or surfing the
web, they’re not fast enough for high-quality video or real-time video gaming.
Simply put, 3G services can’t match the speed of a hard-wired connection such
as what is offered by telephone and cable TV providers. 4G services are set to
Verizon Wireless hasn’t made any announcements regarding
what it plans to charge for the new service or what speeds the service will
realistically provide, though a report issued in February by Dick Lynch, the
company’s chief technology officer, said Verizon Wireless’s LTE system has been
tested at speeds almost 60 times faster than the company’s current 3G network.
News of 4G’s
debut cities came by means of a conference call for investors. The company has
said it is not yet ready to speak publicly about the service.
Verizon Wireless plans to use the LTE
standard for its 4G network. This service will have the ability to display
crystal-clear videos and will allow users to play complex multi-player games or
hold two-way video conferences. Given 4G’s capabilities and promises, it’s
expected that some users will consider giving up their DSL or cable Internet
services and go with wireless.
Godfrey Chua, research analyst at IDC Corp. in Framingham,
believes 4G wireless service could compete with traditional Internet services:
“If you have cable modem at home, it gets us up to that level.” But cable and
Internet giant Comcast doesn’t believe 4G poses a threat. As spokeswoman Mary
Nell Westbrook pointed out, the nation already has 4G services in several
cities, thanks to Sprint
and Clearwire’s recent rollouts of WiMAX
Westbrook also mentioned, “Our services are so much faster than [the nation’s
first 4G service] today.”
Verizon Wireless president Denny Strigl indicated the Boston
and Seattle deployments are just the beginning. He also said the company
intends to launch the new services in up to 30 markets next year, making it
available to as many as 100 million potential subscribers.
While Verizon Wireless is moving quickly towards 4G, the
nation’s two other top-four carriers are taking their time. AT&T
Mark Siegel said his company won’t begin testing a 4G service until 2011.
Instead, AT&T plans to upgrade its existing 3G network to deliver about
seven times the current speed. T-Mobile
also taking its time moving to 4G. Like AT&T, the company plans to upgrade
its existing network, which is still in the process of being rolled out.