Wireless communication technology has evolved from analog to digital to higher-bandwidth where faster digital fourth generation (4G) communication systems provide data transmission speeds as high as 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Faster data transmission speeds mean that 4G communication is available for a user on the move in a car, plane, or train. The advent of 4G enabled an entire new suite of services across the entire telecommunications industry, meaning a whole new level for users and a sizable investment for providers.
4G communication makes it possible for employees to participate in a video conference using a cell phone while in the field, or to tune in to high-quality streaming video via a mobile device. Networks are designed for 4G communication to work seamlessly with existing networks and allow global roaming. A stationary user can even see 1 gigabits per second (Gbps) download speeds with 4G.
Technologies that contribute to 4G include Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), which is designed to carry more data by splitting radio signals that are broadcast over different frequencies and are immune to interference. Mobile Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) uses OFDMA and can support transmission speeds as high as 12 Mbps. Another variation on this smart-antenna technology is multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), which uses two or more radio signals on a single radio channel. As is typical with new telecommunication technologies, it took a great deal of sorting out to establish industry standards for the technology.
These advances rely on smart-antenna systems to be able to work. Refined over a period of years, this spatial multiplexing technology involves using multiple antennas at both the transmitter and the receiver. By doing so, data rates are increased, bandwidth is conserved, and battery power is maximized at the device. Sometimes called transmit/receive diversity, this type of smart-antenna system doesn't necessarily require channel knowledge at the transmitter because the receiver's antennas can sort out the signals.
All these technologies mean that communications can be prioritized and consumers can enjoy levels of service and speed that were previously reserved for business-class wireless telecommunication. For emergency first-responders, 4G communication can stream video back to headquarters while their phones give a fix on their Global Positioning System (GPS) location. Workers can take photos and send them directly to laser printers. Users can perform Internet functions and enter or upload data while still using the phone itself.