4G Speeds top out at ~50-60mega bits per second
That's about 100 times faster than current 3G wireless Internet access. It's also about 3-4 times faster than my home cable modem. There are a couple of competing technologies that provide 4G speeds, WiMax, and LTE. Sprint has opted for WiMax (here's why), while Verizon and AT&T have chosen LTE. WiMax caps out at 10megabits per second, while LTE can see rates about 5X that speed. This CNET review goes over some of Verizon's plans for their network. They should begin covering a few dozen regions in 2010, and plan to have widespread coverage by 2015.
Looking at the network problem across providers, Sean Michael Kerner shares his insight in his post Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Execs Talk Network Future. In particular he reviews the bandwidth trend increase:
How long will a 100 gigabit network last?
Donovan added that AT&T's 2 gigabit backbone lasted 7 years, their 10 gigabit backbone lasted five, and the 40 gigabit will last 3 years. He then asked rhetorically, "How long will a 100 gigabit network last?"
A great challenge for Internet service providers is scaling. What they do today to provide us network access may only be viable for a few years. Demand is driving them forward, beyond the comfortable bounds of modern Internet access speeds. And as technology advances we expect the cost per bit transferred to drop. A more efficient path forward could include a crowd sourced (all the major telecomm companies, and national governments) research initiative. Even a few hundred billion dollars funnelled into research today, could save us many times the incremental costs of current upgrade paths. I've been a big believer in long term investments, and building up global networking speeds and supporting frameworks fits that category perfectly.
The Internet "wants" to be faster
Users want data served faster. We want it uploaded and shared faster. As the bandwidth we have access to grows, so will our utilization of it. From streaming video, to sharing virtual landscapes we have shown a growing interest in fatter pipes. The same is true for processing speeds yielded by Moore's Law like miniturization. The balance of constrained and unconstrained designs is a rich separate issue for design theory (there are advantage to both).
Based on the cost estimates I'm seeing for unlimited wireless through Sprint's 4G (unlimited $70/month), if I can combine my cable bill, and smart phone bill, 4G will be a cheaper option. It may even be faster with Verizons and AT&Ts LTE technology. And it will be more available to me through advanced mobile technology.