‘Long Term Evolution’ (LTE)
isn’t technically 4G (it is the final grade of 3G), but its
performance enhancements are such that it will be marketed under this
easy moniker. The
arrival of 4G in the UK has been torturous.
EE will finally launch a service on the 1800MHz band later this month,
but even with carrier infighting over and the
rollout date brought forward it will still be mid 2013 before 4G is
seen across all major networks and 2015 before it expands beyond the
major population centres.
The wait will be worth it. 4G will increase data bandwidth roughly 20x over 3G in its initial implementation and transform the way we will use our phones, tablets and laptops on the move. Should you invest in a long term mobile phone contract for a smartphone without 4G right now? Probably not.
The next generation WiFi standard is another game changing wireless standard that’s almost here, but not quite. 802.11ac is the successor to 802.11n and it delivers increased range and up to 3x the performance – enough for multiple family members to happily stream Full HD video around the home without a glitch. It is the WiFi standard we have been waiting for and the first few 802.11ac routers we have tested (the Buffalo AirStation 1750 and Netgear R6300) have been extremely impressive.
Then again 802.11ac is not finished. Like the early days of 802.11n we are dealing with ‘Draft’ products that will require firmware updates to work with the final standard and, worse still, there are no 802.11ac compatible devices or peripherals yet on the market. We had to test these routers by using 802.11ac wireless bridges and physically wiring a PC to it. Hardly ideal. Of course the logical solution would be a USB dongle for your laptop, but they won’t arrive until Christmas. Meanwhile phones, tablets and laptops with integrated 802.11ac won’t ship until early/mid 2013. Yes we’d suggest putting that upgrade on hold.