Businesses and individuals are on the brink of having wireless capability that is much faster than existing technologies. This capability has been dubbed as “fourth-generation wireless,” or 4G, with its global platform termed LTE, for “long term evolution.”
What this will mean to businesses and individuals is that they will be able to access the same bandwidth and speed available in their homes and offices, only wirelessly. And not just in wi-fi hotspots.
b#Harry Martin#/b#, the director of advanced technologies for Verizon Wireless’ Philadelphia Tri-State Region, notes that Verizon was the first to announce a roll out of this technology (it made the announcement in November and launched 4G LTE on December 5). Since the announcement 90 percent of wireless operators have followed suit. LTE, he says, will be the global standard for next-generation service.
The technology will have speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G and will immediately cover one-third of Americans. Verizon expects the reach of the 4G network to equal the existing Verizon 3G coverage area by 2013.
Martin will speak about Verizon’s 4G LTE technology at the Association for Computing Machinery/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers on Thursday, December 16, at 8 p.m. at Small Auditorium, Princeton University. The event is free. Visit www.acm.org/chapters/princetonacm, or call 908-582-7086
Verizon and other wireless companies have purchased equipment from manufacturers like Alcatel-Lucent and Ericcson, which have taken the 4G LTE protocol and made it a reality for businesses and consumers.
Its faster speeds make things possible in the field that were never possible before, and this rapid connectivity will exist over entire metropolitan areas rather than just at wireless hotspots.
“Wi-fi is not mobile,” he says. “We are bringing a ubiquitous wireless service where you don’t have to deviate from your travels.”
“When we talk about 4G LTE, we are talking about extending a faster network, with quicker response times, and that combo allows us to extend applications that might have been limited to in-building,” Martin says. Now the same sizable records that were accessible only in your office will also be available in the field.
So what can this new generation wireless deliver that current wireless cannot? Although many of its potential uses have yet to be realized, Martin suggests a few that should be available early on:
#b#Work faster#/b#. A utility, for example, can get work orders to its service people wirelessly, without the delays that happen now.
Be more responsive to customer requests. A salesperson in the field can access and process large inventory records quickly, with a handheld device. Or an architect can change a three-dimensional blueprint and communicate it in real time to anyone in the field who needs to see it.
#b#Grab a map in real time#/b#. Anyone will be able to download a map wherever they are, even though maps are very large files.
#b#Have fun on the run#/b#. Users can access all of their music, videos, and games from the palm of their hands. And cranky kids in the back seat of a car can quickly grab a new video to watch.
#b#Do online gaming on a handheld with the high speeds of a home connection#/b#. In online gaming the speed of a response is related not just to the speed with which users interact on their equipment but also to the responsiveness of their networks. This is called latency. “If I’m on my handheld device in a drag race between me and someone else across the globe, we both try to hit the throttle at the same time,” Martin says. “But the first to get to the server is the one who comes off the line the quickest, and usually that makes that person the winner.”
It used to be that on wireless a player was at a disadvantage, but 4G LTE will put wireless users on par with people who are plugged in.
Martin has lived in southeastern Pennsylvania all his life. His mother was a stay-at-home mom and his father a fireman for the city of Philadelphia. Martin has been involved in the telecommunications industry for 30 years and in wireless for the last 17. He started with the original Bell of Pennsylvania in the 1970s, shortly after finishing high school, and followed the company through its various name changes to Bell Atlantic Mobile and finally Verizon Wireless.
Originally an engineer for Bell of Pennsylvania, Martin moved to the wireless side after getting involved in data communication. “I’ve seen wireless evolution from its inception,” he says, adding that all his education has been through intensive job training at technical locations within his company.
As a director of advanced technologies, Martin leads a team responsible for overseeing the company’s rollout of the latest wireless data devices and advanced services, including 4G LTE, which has included the Philadelphia area as an initial launch market.
Martin suggests some potential changes as businesses switch to the new protocol and developers create new applications for it.
#b#Less overhead#/b#. LTE will allow businesses to expand their storage space without buying new equipment, with cloud computing, which will be further enabled by LTE. Cloud computing means that important data is stored in a shared location rather than in-house, and companies pay someone else to manage their data.
The cost of equipment and software should also come down as businesses start using this LTE wide area network. In its third-generation, wireless has been functioning under several different standards, resulting in what Martin calls a “hodge-podge of solutions.” As a result, manufacturers and software developers had to ensure that their equipment and programs would work with each of these standards. But, says Martin, “with LTE they can develop it once and make it available to billions of people.”
#b#Connection#/b#. Through LTE the Internet will also be able to connect devices, not just people. For example, an appliance company will be able to communicate with appliances in a household and send out electronic updates where necessary. The appliance itself will be able to let its owner know that it needs servicing or has some other problem. The result will be improved customer service.
Over the next decade people whose lunch date has extended longer than expected may be alerted by phone that the parking meter is about to expire and be able to add additional money by phone. When people with diabetes monitor their glucose levels at home, it may be shared automatically with their doctors. People traveling in a car will be able to do video chats by phone, which requires a lot of band width and was previously not possible in the mobile world.
Martin concedes that faster speeds are not right for everybody. The need for speed will be dictated by the actual applications people are running in the field. But the new LTE capability that is coming online will open up a new venue for creative solutions. “We have opened things up for entrepreneurs to come up with great ideas,” Martin says.