As the processing power and capabilities of mobile phones expands, so do its applications. Once merely a tool for voice calls and texting, mobile phones can now be used for internet browsing, videos, gaming, and video chat.
However, in addition to a capable processor, streaming videos and games also requires a fast and reliable connection, and given the explosive growth of smartphones and other popular mobiles devices such as the upcoming Apple iPad 2 and Android tablet PCs, there is an ever increasing strain on current mobile networks. While Wi-Fi may be suitable in the home, in order to fully utilize your mobile phone you must subscribe to a more expansive mobile network.
3G, HSPA and HSPA+
Mobile phones featuring 3G and HSPA currently provide the fastest and most suitable wireless connections for most consumers. Examples of phones operating on these networks include the HTC Desire and the Apple iPhone. With 3G, bandwidth typically ranges from 3.6 to 7.2 mbps, with a maximum speed of 14.4 mbps in some areas.
Some markets have begun to introduce HSPA Evolved, or HSPA Plus, a wireless network with purported speeds of up to 42 mbps. However, actual speeds may vary depending on location, and can be as low as 14.4 mbps for some users. Providers such as AT&T have already begun rolling out HSPA Plus plans throughout North America.
4G Cell Phones
4G is the next generation beyond HSPA Plus phones. As a result, many countries are skipping HSPA Plus entirely in favor of building 4G mobile broadband networks. 4G consists of three technological variants, each providing separate solutions and speeds.
Evolved and some countries are moving directly to it if they don’t have extensive existing networks and investment. There are three technology variants, all of which are named 4G, but provide different solutions and potential speeds:
Developed by IEEE, WiMax is a long-range wireless networking system similar to Wi-Fi but with a much larger coverage area. As of now WiMax speeds are limited to 40 mbps, yet technological revisions promise to increase speeds to 1 gbps. The first mobile phone to support WiMax networks is the HTC EVO 4G. Despite the potential for higher bandwidth, reports state that the phone currently has an average speed closer to 6 mbps.
Long Term Evolution (LTE)
Already functioning in parts of Europe, LTE networks are being developed by companies such as Nokia as a worldwide replacement for 3G and HSPA. Some reports indicate LTE can reach up to 100 mbps, but only for computers making use of external dongles.
LTE advanced is still in development and isn’t expected to be available to consumers until later this year. A major upgrade over LTE, this wireless network is said to have already reach peak speeds of over 1 gbps, a figure many network operators had not been projected to breach until 2015. With a number of successful tests in Japan purporting transfer speeds of 5 gbps, many in the industry are excited at the possibilities of LTE Advanced.
To put the speed in perspective, it is roughly 1500 times faster than the current HSPA bandwidth and 100 times faster than even the 50 mbps broadband connections available from a wired connection. Theoretically, LTE Advanced will make it possible to stream high definition movies without buffering or interruption.