Woo-hoo! Here comes 4G

Finally! Over the last few months we've watched enviously as the US has seen the first 4G phones come on sale and the first networks turned on without any word on when the next-gen mobile technology would come to the UK. Now Ofcom have finally given us the goss - though we've still got a few months to wait until the dream becomes a reality.

4G, if you haven't been paying attention obsessively reading tech blogs in recent months, is to the current 3G networks what they were to the old 2G networks. It's the next phase of mobile. While with the upgrade from 2G to 3G the emphasis was on stupid tricks like video calling, with 4G it's all about the thing we all care about - data speed. Your 4G smartphone will be able to suck down data at up to a frankly ridiculous 100Mps - that's almost certainly faster than your current home broadband, homes.

In fact, 4G is so focused on data that that's all it carries. There's no dedicated 'channel' for voice or text info on 4G - it's all just sent as data. That's perfect for a world where increasingly we're using the internet on our phones as much as we're calling them, and it helps open the door to a revolution in calling where services like Google Talk or Facebook Chat underpin our calls and numbers are a thing of the past.

But enough tech-utopiary. When is all this happening, we hear you cry? Well, the good news is that Ofcom have announced they're going to auction off the relevant spectrum - the airwaves that 4G will use - next year. The 3G spectrum auction raised a ridiculous £22 billion, so if that's any guideline next year will raise a tidy little bonus for George Osborne - which the operators will then rake back by charging through the nose for 4G services.

But who cares! It's the future! But what will Three - the network that first brought 3G to the UK, only to actually win most of its customers by offering massively discounted 2G voice calls, only to swing back to 3G once smartphones took off - call itself in the age of 4G? Four?

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