Nishat Kurwa on Monday, Nov. 22nd
Two new 4G networks are coming to Silicon Valley this winter, but why so late?
4G, or fourth generation wireless standards, are past due in the tech mecca, where cities teeming with developers and heavy data users need faster speeds to meet insatiable web content appetites.
Current download speeds on 3G networks run between 800 kBs per second and 1 Mb per second. Mark Sullivan, Senior Editor at PC World magazine, said at that speed, a New York Times front page would take about 14 seconds to load. Making the leap to 4G means info processing at about 3 Mbs per second – “three times faster than 3G, and that’s the bottom range,” of speeds that can get you 6 Mbs per second, he explained. “At the bottom end of the 3-6 second range (of 4G) that same New York Times web page will render in less than three seconds on your device.”
Sullivan has been running tests in ten different San Francisco neighborhoods with T-Mobile’s “quasi-4G” networks in San Francisco.
Both Wimax, a Clearwire service, and Verizon are expected to debut true 4G service in Silicon Valley by the end of the year. As the Mercury News notes, it’s a curiously delayed launch, especially for Wimax, which is already in more than 60 cities around the country. Sullivan said, though, that those cities are mostly smaller markets that don’t have near the demand that a Silicon Valley launch will entail. And he said Wimax must tread very carefully under such scrutiny. “You could argue that Wimax is really ahead – they bought a bunch of key spectrum during the options earlier in the decade. But they’ve had problems with capital and it’s been hard to roll out new technology. When you do go after big markets you’re really in the limelight and when you do launch there, you want to make sure that you’re well deployed.” He recalled AT&T’s reputation took a bit hit over the iPhone service debacles.”
But, Sullivan said there’s plenty of developer innovation to look forward to when Wimax and Sprint (which did a limited 4G deployment in the Valley already) launch across the region. “What we’re hoping is that we’re going to start to see video conferencing in cool ways – mixing and matching different applications in voice and video.”
He said once developers start using these new networks, loyalties will develop among consumers who need the increased speeds to access those mobile products. “If developers start devoloping apps that require more speed and consumers start to love and depend on those apps, that pushes it forward.”