4G Mobile Service Debuts: What You Need to Know

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A Swedish telecom firm has become the first carrier to offer 4G wireless service, albeit on a very limited basis. TeliaSonera announced Monday that its 4G/LTE network for data services would be available initially in Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The carrier plans to expand 4G coverage to 25 cities in Sweden and four in Norway by the end of 2010.

On paper, TeliaSonera's 4G mobile broadband sounds blisteringly fast, with speeds of up to 100 Mbits/second--up to ten times faster than the provider's Turbo 3G service, the company says. Users of data-intensive apps such as video conferencing, online gaming, and Web TV broadcasting would benefit from 4G speeds, which initially is for data services only. The company's FAQ provides additional pricing and service details.

As is often the case with cutting-edge tech, early adopters will face some major challenges when upgrading to 4G. TeliaSonera customers, for instance, will need a special modem manufactured by Samsung to access the 4G network. And since the Samsung modem isn't compatible with 3G networks, users will need a separate 3G modem for when they leave the 4G coverage area. The good news is that a 3G-4G combo modem should be ready by Q2 2010.

4G in North America

On this side of the pond, the rollout of 4G will likely be a slow and steady process.

Wireless service provider Clearwire is currently building the first national 4G network in the U.S. Using WiMax technology, Clearwire offers broadband speeds of 4Mbps to 6Mbps--relatively poky compared to TeliaSonera's 100Mbps offering. As of September 2009, Clearwire reported 173,000 WiMax subscribers.

Sprint, which owns 51 percent of Clearwire, has announced plans to sell a 4G smartphone in 2010. And

Comcast, using the Clearwire network, is offering WiMax 4G service in Portland, Oregon. The Comcast High-Speed 2go service maxes out at 4Mbps.

Verizon, meanwhile, has been testing its 4G LTE network in a few U.S. markets, including Boston and Seattle. The carrier, as well as archrival AT&T, is expected to begin offering 4G service in limited areas next year. However, it's unlikely either provider will offer widespread 4G coverage until 2011.

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