In 2010, Verizon Wireless became the first company in North America to deploy an LTE network to its subscribers nationwide. Over the course of the past two years, it has expanded that network at a lightning-fast pace and it now represents the largest LTE network operator in the world. In the meantime, competing networks in the United States have launched their own 4G LTE networks, as have international service providers. The main benefit touted by every wireless company about 4G LTE mobile broadband is that it offers amazingly fast download speeds. That’s not just a line of marketing speak, either: A 4G network is defined as one that can deliver download speeds of at least 100Mbps. LTE is capable of that. In the United States, that means it could actually be faster than most home cable Internet installations.
A Look at Cable Internet Speeds vs. 4G Mobile Broadband
Since the dawn of modern broadband, consumers have typically been granted access to high speeds in one of three ways:
- Through copper wires operated by the cable company.
- Through phone lines operated by their local telephone operator.
- Through fiber optic cables maintained by other companies.
The speeds offered by 4G LTE, which can go up to 100 Mbps, compare favorably to all three types of wired broadband. Today, most United States cable subscribers have access to tiered broadband speeds through their cable operator that max out at around 60Mbps. Customers with Verizon FiOS can choose speeds that top out at about 300Mbps, while DSL subscribers enjoy speeds up to about 24Mbps in the most advanced cases. That said, the average peak download speed for an LTE connection on Verizon’s network is around 35MBps. On AT&T’s smaller LTE network, it’s around 45MBps at peak speeds. That’s actually very fast, and generally too fast to be useful on a smartphone or tablet device. Desktop computers, though, would find those speeds quite useful if there weren’t a couple of pretty big caveats and exceptions.
The Problem with Wireless Broadband: Spectrum, Capacity, and Load
Under ideal conditions, a fully installed LTE-Advanced network, expected to be available in 2013, could completely replace a wired broadband connection like those offered by major cable companies. The reality, though, is that these networks face a few hurdles before they can be considered a replacement for the traditional wired connection.
The first of these hurdles has to do with spectrum. Like oil, spectrum is a limited resource that relies on the availability of airwaves. More subscribers means that more spectrum must be acquired and deployed in order for speeds to remain fast. If the majority of Americans were to use 4G LTE networks for both mobile and home broadband services, spectrum would become constrained and speeds would suffer. The capacity and load placed on these networks can also cause speeds to vary quite a bit. While peak speeds currently reach between 35 and 45 Mbps, average speeds are around 6 to 10 Mbps. AT&T itself has noted that, under maximum loads, its LTE network will only offer about 6 Mbps. That’s certainly not enough for home subscribers to stream movies, browse the internet, and connect mobile devices, all at the same time.
Finally, 4G is not yet available nationwide. Verizon offers the biggest network, but it is not yet complete. Other providers are even further behind Verizon, and it is estimated that full nationwide availability of 4G services will not happen until very late in 2013 or early in 2014. That makes it hard to consider 4G ready for prime time in the home as of now.
In the Future, 4G LTE May Become a Viable Alternative
On the horizon, LTE-Advanced allows for spectrum aggregation that will allow multiple LTE frequencies to be bound together for seriously fast speeds. In some cases, this may allow for 1Gbps download speeds for American consumers. That day is still at least two years away, however, meaning it will be quite some time before cable connections can be traded in for 4G wireless connections nationwide. In the meantime, 4G LTE is a great option for business travelers on the go who need Internet service in trains, planes, and automobiles. It’s also a great broadband option for rural Americans who have no other high-speed source of Internet connectivity available to them. With proper development, its appeal will expand and its utility will greatly increase to consumers of all kinds, and in all locations. No matter what you are looking for in mobile broadband, http://www.BroadbandExpert.com.au has a service checker that allows you to enter your address and see what plans are available for you.