I'm addicted to 4G, and it could happen to you, too.
By now, almost everyone has seen TV commercials advertising 4G phones. Essentially, a 4G mobile hotspot lets you work anywhere as if you were at home or in the office with a fast broadband connection. With sustained average download speeds in excess of five megabits per second, it's likely you won't be able to tell the difference.
Granted, many felt the same way about the first 3G cellular modems released several years ago. But the Web has become much more advanced since then; all that extra AJAX and HTML5 code takes more bandwidth. People are also streaming more music and video these days. As a result, 3G no longer seems like enough.
In addition, the Apple iPhone 4 and Android smartphones running OS 2.2 (commonly known as Froyo) now offer mobile hotspot capability. That means that for an extra monthly fee, you can use your phone as a 4G hotspot for up to five devices—or even eight, in the case of the HTC Thunderbolt. You no longer need to buy a separate cellular modem, which was really just one more thing to carry around, charge all the time, and worry about losing. Mobile hotspot access averages $20 per month across the major U.S. carriers. That's not chump change, but it's a long way from the $50 to $60 per month a separate USB modem normally costs.
Verizon launched its LTE network in December with 39 markets, and unveiled 49 more at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, so Tuesday's announcement will bring the total number of cities with LTE access to 147 by the end of the year.
"Aggressively expanding this powerful network beyond major metro areas reflects the reality that the 4G LTE ecosystem is growing quickly," David Small, chief technical officer for Verizon, said in a statement. "Our commitment to reach deep into medium-sized cities and smaller communities by the end of 2011 means the power of 4G LTE can be harnessed and provide advanced services to law enforcement, healthcare workers, educators, and other professionals, as well as to individual consumers, sooner than many thought possible."
We just got our hands on the HTC Thunderbolt, the very first 4G LTE smartphone, offered by Verizon Wireless, and we're currently testing the thing out. Our review and videos will be coming soon, but let's just say, 4G mobile hotspot on this thing is absolutely amazing. Anyhow, while we finish all that up, we figured we'd hit you with our HTC Thunderbolt unboxing gallery. We put a grip of images together to give you a look at this fantastic device.
AT&T just announced it will buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. If the transaction gets approved by the government and closes in a year as planned, it will create the nation's largest wireless carrier by far.
While this is great news for both companies, it's an awful idea for consumers - and I desperately hope the US antitrust authorities rake this merger over the coals.
An AT&T/T-Mobile merger at least makes more sense than the silly T-Mobile/Sprint idea which was being bandied about. Both carriers use the same technologies: GSM, HSPA+ and LTE. While they're on different frequency bands, radios which use all of the relevant bands are becoming easier to build.
The merger neatly solves T-Mobile's long-term problem of not having enough spectrum for LTE, the 4G technology which will soon be a global standard. It gives T-Mobile's struggling parent, Deutsche Telekom, a gigantic cash infusion. And it lets AT&T once again position itself as the number-one carrier against Verizon Wireless, which leapfrogged AT&T technologically this year with Verizon's 4G LTE launch.
AT&T is ahead of T-Mobile on building LTE. T-Mobile is far ahead of AT&T on building HSPA+, a intermediate 4G technology that fits right between the carriers' existing 3G networks and LTE. Together, they could have a smooth and powerful nationwide network.
AT&T's press release for the merger backs this up. The combined carrier will be able to build out much more LTE Than AT&T could alone, by combining AT&T's 700 Mhz spectrum with T-Mobile's AWS spectrum.
For stockholders, this all sounds great. With reduced competition and the efficiencies of a combined network, the new company will probably be quite profitable.
For phone owners, tech lovers, and American consumers, this is a total disaster.
In our tests, I got eight hours of 3G talk time with the Thunderbolt, six hours of video playback time, and only 2.5 hours of LTE streaming. So what's an Internet fan to do?
HTC and Verizon will offer a very high-capacity extended battery, the companies told me. The 2750 mAh battery is nearly twice the capacity of the Thunderbolt's built-in 1400 mAh unit. The big battery will cost $49.99 and will be available very soon, said Pat Bucci, Verizon's director of accessory products.
The new battery makes the phone about an ounce heavier than its existing 6.5 ounces, and it comes with a new back that makes the phone deeper as well, Bucci said.
"We want customers who are power users, that are going to have the hotspot on all day, to just go," he said.
Verizon Wireless will likely do away with its unlimited data plan and switch to tiered pricing sometime this summer, Fran Shammo, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Telecom and Business, said Tuesday.
Verizon announced in January that it would ditch its 150MB $15 monthly plan and require new smartphone users to subscribe to its $30 unlimited plan. That move, announced several days before Verizon unveiled its version of the iPhone, was intended to attract new customers to Verizon and the iPhone, Shammo said.
Verizon opted for the $30 plan because "we didn't really want to put up a barrier to anybody who wanted to come over and experience the Verizon Wireless network," Shammo said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco. "So we felt that it was important to go out at the $30."
Everybody knew, however, that that was not a long-term strategy, Shammo said. "We're going to move to a tiered pricing," which will probably happen "in the mid-summer timeframe."
We've got our hands on the Verizon Wireless version of the Motorola Xoom tablet. This Android 3.0 Honeycomb device supports Verizon's 3G and 4G LTE networks. In this video, we open up the Xoom and give you a look at the tablet hardware and accessories. Then, we powering it on to give you a look at the Xoom setup process. After entering in the Google credentials, we are up and running for a quick tour of the Honeycomb interface. This is just the unboxing, though, so stay tuned for a more thorough walkthrough of the device in the next episode of Bleeding Edge TV.
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We just got our hands on our Motorola Xoom review unit, and we're about to tear into it to give you a look at everything it offers. If you've got any questions about this Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet, feel free to leave them in the comments and we'll be sure to address them. As you can see by the box, we've got the 4G LTE-capable Verizon model here.
Droid Life on Tuesday posted photos of the HTC Thunderbolt, which it says will be Verizon's first 4G LTE device. The site didn't have any details on specs except to note that it looks a lot like the Desire HD. The device features a kickstand and Google branding.
Verizon said it has no comment.
In the past couple of years, as 3G has become pervasive, cellphone providers haven't been able to rely on the term anymore in marketing ads. So it's no surprise that as soon as newer technologies get introduced, they start touting that they are now offering the next step above that, 4G. The problem is that whether it's Sprint offering WiMax, or Verizon offering LTE, these new technologies simply aren't 4G. The actual definition of 4G is something that none of the wireless companies can define, as that job belongs to the International Communications Union (ITU)--and according to them, none of the carriers met the requirements to really be called 4G. In fact, the ITU hadn't even provided a clear, final decision as to what could and could not be called 4G. This left customers confused as to who had the actual faster networks.
Now, it seems that the ITU has decided to back down, and cave to the various network providers. Over the weekend, the organization released a statement saying "As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as '4G,' although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed." Once again, it seems they do their best to remain unclear and confusing, but what did change is that now when a Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon ad claims their 4G speed, they will actually be accurate. So a few days ago, no one had 4G in North America--now almost everyone does.
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