The problem with 4G isn't 4G itself; it's the inconsistency of the World Wide Web on which the 4G connectivity is riding.
Let's say a site loads in seven seconds on your iPhone over 3G. That means the site should load in less than a second over 4G every time, right? Wrong—in real-world use cases, the promise of 4G is almost never a reality. The network itself is absolutely capable of performing 10 times faster than 3G networks. That part is true. But Web performance isn't that simple. There is a huge delta between pure science in a lab and the real world. The cellular network, or your ISP's local network, is a fraction of the infrastructure and services that it takes to get sites to load in your browser. In fact, the network that your device connects to is the last mile in the Web performance continuum. It's not the second-to-last mile. It's dead last.
For now, go ahead and buy a 4G phone, tablet or other connected device, and it just might be ready and waiting when Web service providers improve their performances.
Observation 3: High-Speed Wireless Providers Are Branching Out
While established telecoms such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are battling it out for subscribers, they are not only scrambling to buy up all the spectrum they can. They also are starting to use languishing assets—such as extra data center space—as launching pads for incremental new Web service and secure co-location income streams. And why not? These large telecom data centers are already set up for all of these services with everything—from controlled physical environments to heavy-duty security to high-end power supplies.
Such investments there are going through the roof. AT&T alone recently announced a $14 billion data center refresh project specifically for new services. In December, the mega-telecom also announced the expansion of its 4G LTE network
to include 10 cities across the United States, including Providence, R.I.; Bowling Green, Ky.; and New Haven and Hartford, Conn.
That wasn't all. After being rebuffed by the U.S. government in its attempt to acquire T-Mobile last year, the nation's largest telecom added to its wireless spectrum by acquiring another cellular provider, Alltel
, in January.