Jane Zweig

4G hype: Time for a reality check

August 18, 2009: 10:00 AM ET

Wireless carriers tout a new wave of wireless technology but it will be years before most consumers benefit -- and before carriers make money.

4G Phone: Samsung's Mondi device operates on WiMax networks. Image: Samsung

4G Phone: Samsung's Mondi device operates on WiMax networks. Image: Samsung

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon (VZ) and Vodafone (VOD), last week announced it had completed data "calls" using its flavor of so-called 4G technology, a new generation of radio upgrades that promises to improve the throughput  and capacity of wireless phone networks.

Rival Sprint Nextel (S) immediately responded with a flurry of news releases touting its 4G network, which uses a competing technical standard.  In proclaiming its ability to deliver peak downlink speeds of 10 Mbps, one release gushed: "At these speeds, Sprint 4G breathes new life into wireless Internet."

Um, wasn't that what 3G was supposed to do? More

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