There has been a lot of buzz surrounding  Sprint’s release of 4G, but what exactly does that mean?

“Blazing-Fast”, “Turbo Charged”, “Lightning-Fast” are a couple of the phrases Sprint is “modestly” using to describe their new 4G network. With all this hype, smart phone users still using 3G, might feel a little left behind in the stone age. However, don’t set down your saber tooth pelt and club to go running to a Sprint store just yet. The truth is, when 4G arrives it might not be that much faster than the existing 3G network. First off, what the heck is a “G” and why do I need 4 of them?

1G

4G represents the 4th Generation of cellular technology to date. Each generation marked a significant advancement in mobile technology. The 1G of mobile devices took place in the 80’s and are commonly referred to as “suitcase” phones because of their enormous size. These phones were so big because they required larger batteries to reach the nearest mobile network site.

Takes me back to my childhood, my Dad used to have a Motorolla 2900 in our car.

Takes me back to my childhood, my Dad used to keep a Motorola 2900 in our car.

2G

In the 90’s, as the mobile networks increased, batteries got smaller and phone became more manageable. The 2G era meant people could now carry phones in their pockets or purses without straining their backs. Another important landmark of this generation was the popularization of SMS (Short Message Service).

Phones in the 90's were much smaller because they didn't need huge batteries to connect to a network.

Phones in the 90's were much smaller because they didn't need huge batteries to connect to a network.

3G

Around 2002-2003 the third generation arrived on the scene and helped redefine mobile. Now mobile phones could simultaneously use speech and data services. Also, since data transfer rates were significantly faster people could now browse the web and perform advanced functions.

The iPhone is the poster child of the 3G era.

The iPhone is the poster child of the 3G era.

4G

The fourth generation is currently in development and will increase data transfer speeds up to gigabit-speed. This will allow smart phones to perform more like personal computers in terms of data transfer. It is an exciting prospect and promises to redefine how people interact with the mobile web.

Artistic rendering of what 4G will be like.

Artistic rendering of what 4G will be like.

So what about Sprint’s 4G?

As I was saying, the fourth generation is currently in development. Sprint jumped the gun on declaring it’s 4G network because it isn’t even complete. As you can see on the Sprint site, coverage is extremely limited. So unless you are in one of these select cities (and have service), 4G will feel more like 3G.

The reality is that it will be a couple years before the whole country can enjoy complete 4G coverage, and by that time carriers like AT&T and Verizon will have updated their networks as well. The acronym “4G” is merely being thrown around as a marketing ploy. So, until the technology is proven, don’t buy into the hype.