"The 4G wireless broadband revolution"
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The 4G wireless broadband revolution
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>> Hey, welcome back to Editor's Office Hours, New York City edition and that's a show where you get to talk live to a different CNET editor each time for about thirty minutes. We try to answer your questions. I'm Dan Ackerman. Joining me here today is reporter Maggie Reardon. Maggie, what are we gonna be talking about today?
>> We are gonna be talking about 4G wireless broadband.
>> Okay, all that new stuff, all those new wireless technologies and how they're gonna affect you.
>> Now, of course, this show is all about you asking the questions. There's a couple of different ways to participate. There's a big chat box right below you right here. We can talk to other people who are also watching this show, or even better, there's a big white box over here next to Maggie. You type your question in there and we're gonna try to answer as many of those questions as we can so type them in early. You need to be a CNET member to do that. You can actually sign up right from the box if you're not. You just need an email address and a password. So we're gonna get right into it and check and see what our first question is. And I think this is actually a great question, very simple, I never heard of 4G. What exactly is it? Amano wants to know that.
>> Okay. Well, 4G is basically the next generation of wireless, right? Today, most of the cell phone carriers have 3G rolled out and that's where you're able to get emails, surf the web on your cell phone, but it's not quite broadband.
>> And that's kind of, the iPhone 3G, cause it's 3G.
>> Exactly, it's faster but it's not broadband. So, 4G wireless is gonna be broadband speed wireless. So you're gonna get between two and four megabits per second downloads on mobile devices which is pretty cool.
>> Now, most phones today are 3G enabled, right? Or most carriers have 3G services available. Most carriers have 3G services available but they don't, not all phones are 3G. For example, T mobile is just starting to roll out 3G now.
>> Okay. And not all markets have 3G available.
>> Big cities, mostly.
>> Big cities, mostly, so if you're somewhere like, you know, in rural America, you may not be getting 3G.
>> The iPhone 3G's not gonna be much help there.
>> It's not gonna be much help.
>> You'll be back on the EDGE network.
>> Other countries, they usually get this kind of stuff earlier. Do they have 4G services yet?
>> You know, 4G is just starting to take off now and I wouldn't even say that we're at the stages where it's being rolled out. It's sort of in development stages with a lot of the carriers now.
>> Couple of test launches here and there.
>> Yeah, well, even just like trying to get the technology ready, you know. So there's WiMAX which is what we're gonna talk about in a little bit here. WiMAX is a 4G technology and it's rolled out in some places across the globe but it's not always being used for mobile services. It's to provide wireless broadband to places where they can't have -
>> They're just starting to build that infrastructure now.
>> Right, where they can't get wired infrastructure, it's used a lot.
>> Okay, so let's take a look at some of the questions from our audience. Somebody wants to know which operators are currently deploying WiMAX stuff because you mentioned there's a couple of places where they're starting to roll the WiMAX out.
>> Right. So in the U.S. right now, Sprint and its soon to be partner, Clearwire.
>> Are the only two providers that are offering WiMAX? But, eventually, by the end of this year, they'll probably -
>> So just Sprint right now.
>> So just Sprint.
>> Oh, Sprint, you're ahead of the game on that one.
>> So, another question, are AT&T and Verizon and other guys gonna offer WiMAX?
>> Well, Verizon and AT&T have opted to go with a different technology.
>> Oh, okay.
>> Called LTE.
>> All right.
>> And it's not, it's not quite ready yet for prime time.
>> So, they're still working on the technology, still getting the standards all together, so it's gonna be at least two to three years before they'll even be able to start rolling that network out.
>> Now, what is LTE?
>> LTE is called, it stands for Long Term Evolution. I'm not really sure why.
>> And how does that relate to phones?
>> It's, all you need to know is it's, it's a type of -
>> WiMAX of a different name?
>> It's similar to WiMAX. They use the same -
>> Kind of Blu-Ray, HD-DVD.
>> Kind of.
>> Kind of similar concept for different executions.
>> And fundamentally, the fundamental technology is similar, but they're just a little bit different. So, they're gonna be two tracks for a little while in terms of, like, the folks who are developing the technologies and the equipment for the networks.
>> So, for right now, Sprint is doing WiMAX and AT&T and Verizon are doing LTE.
>> And they're all building out their networks.
>> But Verizon and AT&T have not even begun to roll out.
>> They haven't even started yet.
>> No, no. But Sprint is building it out now and they actually launched their first network a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore.
>> I remember getting a couple of emails about that. Some laptop companies were interested in having people come down and check that out cause I guess you can use this technology in more than just phones.
>> Right. Yeah. And that's what's gonna be really cool about this sort of next generation of wireless is it's gonna be a lot more than just phones.
>> It's just kind of a protocal and a chip and you can put it in.
>> Yeah, you can put it in a camera so that you can, like, upload pictures right away to -
>> To Flicker, for example. It's gonna be in gaming devices, lots of cool stuff. So, I mean, it's going to happen. I don't know if the technology's necessarily gonna be WiMAX or if it's gonna be LTE or maybe someone will come up with something else. But I think it's pretty clear people like, they like being mobile, they like broadband.
>> And they want a faster connection.
>> They want a connection more like the one they have at home or at their office.
>> Here's a good question about some of the regulatories which I would find fascinating. Somebody wants to know about FCC TV broadcasters and what they call the white space which, I guess, is between the TV stations and [inaudible].
>> Right. So white space is, it's a little sliver of a spectrum that's between the current TV channels right now. And so, there's a big debate going on in the FCC about whether to sort of open up that spectrum for unlicensed use. For example, Wi-Fi is unlicensed use, right? So anybody can -
>> Send up a node and transfer to Wi-Fi.
>> Exactly. So, Google and Microsoft and Motorola want to make these white spaces available to whoever wants them. You know, maybe some other provider will come up and it won't be just Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon offering 4G wireless. Maybe someone else will come up with a business model that will use these white spaces. And the problem is, is the broadcasters don't think that they can build tech, you know, they can't, they don't think that Motorola, for example, could build a device that doesn't interfere with their broadcasting.
>> That there will be interlap between the broadcast TV and the data use of this white space.
>> Right. And the FCC has done some testing. They came out with a report last week. And the FCC chairman is in support of opening up these white spaces and the broadcasters don't want to.
>> Now is it really that the broadcasters don't want to give up any of their spectrum?
>> Yeah, that's probably what it is.
>> Now, is that probably some of it?
>> Yeah, you know -
>> Especially cause they have to give up the what, the analog frequencies now to get the digital ones and we're doing the big switchover.
>> Right. And you know, and it's been, they could be trying to protect their own turf. I mean, as we've seen, a lot of video is making its way online.
>> Ah, true.
>> You know? Maybe people won't need -
>> That's a direct competition for that over the air signal Hulu, and everything, I just saw on Thirty Rock, a week early on Hulu.
>> Did you really?
>> They're debuting it, they put it up.
>> Oh, that's so cool.
>> And it'll be on the air next week. That's like a big thing for them.
>> That is a big thing.
>> Not new to the world screen season opener but, but points for trying. With another question here, when will, we talked about how they're building up the roll out and they're sort of getting into it now, but when do you expect the average person will get 4G service from their phone company whether it's WiMAX or anything else?
>> Well -
>> What's the time frame? Two years, one year?
>> It, WiMAX is out there today.
>> So Sprint is rolling out, you know, they've rolled out in Baltimore. They're gonna be doing other cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, I think Houston is on the list.
>> So a lot of cities will be getting it. If you live outside of a city, you know, sorry, you're out of luck. But as for AT&T and Verizon, it's gonna be at least three years.
>> Before you see any kind of service. So the problem with -
>> So for Sprint, WiMAX maybe over the next year or so, roll out to a bunch of good size cities.
>> Yeah. I mean, but the problem is that it's just in that city.
>> So if you leave that city.
>> Then you're back to your old network and they'll probably switch you over automatically to something slower.
>> Right. And that's something that Spring actually hasn't built into the service yet but they say that they're going to.
>> Is that they'll be able to switch between, you know how, like, your phone now will switch?
>> Like the iPhone will go from the 3G to the EDGE.
>> Yes. They're talking about switching between the 3G and the 4G network. So, I think once that happens, it makes it a much more interesting service as opposed to oh, I can get 4G in Baltimore.
>> Now, are the access providers, the Sprints and Verizons, gonna charge a hefty premium for starting, you know, to get your data and services through 4G? Are they using this as a big excuse to bump everybody's prices up?
>> Yeah, I mean, you're gonna have to pay for it. But it's a little bit cheaper than some of those -
>> Mobile broadband modems?
>> Mobile broadband modems, yeah.
>> Yeah. I think -
>> But it'll deliver roughly the same type of service?
>> But it'll be faster.
>> It'll be even faster.
>> But, again, it's not all over the place.
>> It's not all over the place.
>> Which is why people really like those 3G data cards for their laptops.
>> That's true. Well, what you were saying before, and this is another question we've got here, isn't this more than just phone like WiMAX laptops? That brings up an excellent point where it's not just your phone. It's actually technology you can roll out to a lot of different devices.
>> You think we're gonna see a lot of WiMAX laptops?
>> Oh, yeah. Yeah, we're already starting to. I mean, Intel has already embedded WiMAX into their new chips.
>> And it's already rolling out in a bunch of laptops.
>> And Lenovo and Asus and some other companies are starting to play around with that.
>> And you may not be able to use them yet but the technology is there for when you do have WiMAX in your city.
>> And they say that it's not gonna cost them that much more which is a great thing. I mean, if you think about what happened with Wi-Fi. I mean, Wi-Fi partly took off because it just became so cheap and was in everything.
>> That it was easy to use.
>> And it was easy to set up. It was ubiquitous.
>> I mean, I guess a big question I have, though, that is still yet unanswered is, you know, how much is this going to affect, like, battery life, you know?
>> Mm, that is an excellent question. They're already saying that, what is it, the 4G iPhone, the 3G iPhone isn't as good as the previous one in terms of battery life.
>> Yeah, I mean -
>> I mean, if more of these wireless systems working at the same time.
>> It's gonna drive down battery life. We could make up for that, though, with some other, more efficient stuff like the new, kind of, chips that's like the LED backlit displays on laptops that kind of make up for losing some of that battery life.
>> Well, let's hope they do something.
>> It may even out at the end.
>> These are smart guys. They need to find the answer.
>> We'll just give you the gigantic battery. It could just hang off the back.
>> The big gigantic brick could go there. Ah, we have a very simple question. LTE or WiMAX? Which, what do you prefer? What do you think is gonna be the big winner at the end of the day? Total blind prediction, I know, but, you know, the people want to know. You got to answer.
>> The people, my people want to know. I think it's probably gonna end up being LTE.
>> Just cause, if you look at where development is going, right now, in the U.S., Sprint is the only company that's using WiMAX. LTE is gonna be a standard that's adopted by every carrier, probably, if cost is low.
>> Ah, it's less proprietary.
>> It's not that it's less proprietary. It's just that, for example, Vodafone, the world's largest cell phone company in the world is backing LTE.
>> So more of the big players are backing that.
>> Right. So if the big players are backing it, then all the folks who do research and development and who make products for it are gonna be focusing on that. That said, the technologies are similar. So, I think, maybe, there could be a stage down the road where they sort of -
>> A combo.
>> Standards kind of merge to some degree.
>> And recognize those.
>> But I think people really want to avoid what happened in the cell phone world with the GMS and CDMA big debauchal. You know, I mean, I'm still kind of annoyed that, if I have Verizon, I can't just, like, pop out a SIM card and pop in a different SIM card when I travel to another country. I mean, it's really annoying.
>> Conflicting standards. That's always it.
>> Conflicting standards.
>> That why we started seeing, like, Combo, Blu-Ray HD, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players.
>> Before they figured all that out.
>> And it's also a problem for, you know, I think that wireless networks are gonna go more open, right? And when you have competing standards, it just makes that more difficult. You know, I think what people really want, and, you know, it's the same thing that happened in the internet, I think is happening with the wireless networks that, you know, people have become more savvy about surfing the web from a mobile device. And they don't want to be told where to go and what to do. They don't want to be told.
>> And where it'll work and where it won't work.
>> Right. And which phone that they can, you know, like the iPhone. How annoying is it that it's only available on AT&T, right?
>> Yes. I get that all the time.
>> All the time. I do, too. So, I think people eventually want to get to a place where you can take any device to any network. Now, whether that will happen, I don't know.
>> The most wide open standard always wins out in the end.
>> So we know it's useful for consumers.
>> So it's not gonna happen at all with 3G because there are too many competing standards.
>> But, as we get into 4G, if we can get to a common standard, that becomes much more likely a reality.
>> And it looks for now that the wider acceptance of LTE will overpower the early start that WiMAX is getting.
>> Yeah. And you know, I have some concerns about what Sprints, I mean, Sprint, they've got their problems. And you know, you're looking -
>> The guy does TV commercials. He wants you to email him. He's in the diner. He's one of you.
>> Yeah, yeah.
>> One of the guys.
>> He's one of the people.
>> He checks that email address every day.
>> But the problem is that it takes a lot of money to build on a network and, you know, Sprint does have some cash but, you know, the credit market isn't too great right now so I think it's gonna be difficult. I mean, and sometimes it's not always best to be -
>> The first guy.
>> In a market, you know. Maybe the market, people want the faster speeds but I don't know if we're really quite ready for it.
>> First guy's got to take all the shots for everybody else.
>> Including all the body blows there.
>> So Sprint goes out and seeds the market, and then, AT&T and Verizon come in a couple of years later and they look better.
>> Obviously, the real winner as of right now, the fine people of Baltimore.
>> They're getting all the technology nice and early. Now, you were down at Baltimore, weren't you?
>> Yeah, I was.
>> Checking out this big launch that they had fairly recently. Let's take a look right now at a video from that event. This is Maggie checking out the big WiMAX launch in Baltimore. And we'll be back in just a minute.
>> I'm Maggie Reardon with CNET News and I'm here in Baltimore where Sprint has just launched its new WiMAX Xohm Network. And what is WiMAX? Well, WiMAX is a 4G wireless broadband technology. And let me tell you, if you thought that surfing the web on a 3G wireless device like this was fast, well, you haven't seen anything yet. WiMAX is gonna be much faster. It's gonna give you about one to two megabits per second worth of download which is really fast. We're here in Baltimore, the very first city where Sprint has launched its network. And the reason Baltimore? Well, if you look around, it's a very challenging radio frequency kind of environment and you've got water all around us. We've got brick buildings. And that was something that the engineers said that they really wanted to take a look at.
>> So I wanted somewhere that was challenging to the engineers. And my engineers will tell you, this city is challenging.
>> Sprint has a few of its technology partners here, Intel and Nokia, so let's go take a look at what they have.
>> We're here at one of the product demos and they've got a whole bunch of products here. We've got some of the laptops with the embedded WiMAX chips. There's also the Xohm internet modem for the home. And we've got the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet and it looks like they're streaming some video. I'm gonna take a look. Yeah, it's some video from last night's debate. You got Tom Brokaw. Ooh, look at that, Barrack Obama was really good. John McCain, too. This is good stuff.
>> I'm here with Strerohm Diswanasan [assumed spelling] of Intel and he's gonna show us driving around the city of Baltimore how WiMAX really works. He's gonna show us some applications here. So, what are we doing? Are we looking at some video here?
>> Yeah, I'm actually on a YouTube page and I'm actually in the car in the backseat and I'm not connected to anything and I'm actually playing the video. You know, the American Nobel Prize was announced and here's the video that's actually being played in, you know, real time and I could actually have multiple video windows because the bandwidth that I'm actually getting in the car is well in excess of, you know, five megabits. It's actually a downstream bandwidth of seven point seven megabits per second and an upstream bandwidth of two point two megabits per second.
>> Now, we're in a car riding around the city. You've got a laptop here. I mean, do you really envision, I hope people aren't gonna be watching video on their laptop while they're driving. But what are some of the applications that we could, I mean, could we see this embedded in cars or would people, would that be something that people would want to do?
>> Yeah. I think, you know, it's actually a very good point. You know, we don't envision people actually sitting in the, you know, front of a car using their laptops. But what it does is that it opens up the possibility for your car or your mobile environment to be connected all the time.
>> We're here in the Sprint Nextel Xohm demo home in Baltimore and we've got two devices. We've got an iPhone 3G and the Nokia N810, both internet wireless devices, and we're gonna take a look to see which one actually loads up our favorite webpage fastest. We're off to the races.
>> Looks like the iPhone 3G won. I'm not sure if it's the network or the device. Video is definitely the killer app when it comes to WiMAX. But how much is it gonna cost you? Well, if you use it just at home, it's gonna be thirty-five dollars a month and if you want to mobile version, it'll be forty-five dollars a month. And if you just happen to be in Baltimore for the day, you can get it for ten bucks. I'm not sure if consumers are really gonna bite at that price but the technology is pretty cool. This is Maggie Reardon at CNET News.
>> Okay, and we are back on Editor's Office Hours and we are live. That means, if you've got a question for Maggie about 4G or WiMAX or any of that fun stuff, you could just type it right into that big, white question box right over there on the side. We got time for a handful of more questions. Here's a good one, actually, from Pat Gammer [assumed spelling], they want to know, when do you think we'll actually see phones working with this WiMAX and 4G technology? I know there's some test markets up by Baltimore but there's no actual phones yet, right?
>> Right. Nope, it's not in phones yet. Right now, it's just in laptops. And that's the same thing that happened, I think, with 3G, you know, the air cards came out first, and then, it started getting rolled into those.
>> Okay, and then, later, they build them into the actual handsets rather than having a PC card that you slide into your laptop.
>> But for right now, only in laptops and only available in select markets.
>> Right. There, actually, there is, Nokia has a little tablet computer that has.
>> Like a little tiny screen look.
>> But it's not a phone.
>> Like a UMPC, like an ultra mobile thing.
>> Okay, okay. So it'll be a while before we actually see some phone with this. Here's another good timing question, we talked about Baltimore and Chicago, some kind of midsized cities, what is the probability WiMAX will come to other big cities like San Francisco. I think you can probably say 100%, but the question is when. San Francisco, New York, maybe DC, like, really big hubs.
>> Well, DC is -
>> Is, I guess, close to Baltimore, so -
>> It's close to Baltimore.
>> I know that from watching the wire.
>> Right. Yeah, that's a good show. Yeah, so then, other cities will be coming online pretty soon. I think that once Sprint and Clearwire get their merger sort of figured out, which hopefully will happen by the end of the year, they hope it will happen by the end of the year, I think then they'll start -
>> Planning for these bigger cities?
>> Have they start in smaller cities, maybe it's a little more controllable and they can kind of roll stuff out and [inaudible].
>> Well, Baltimore was, I thought, a bit of a strange pick but that engineering team is not too far away.
>> Ah, okay.
>> [Inaudible] said that may have been part of the reason. The CTO of Sprint said something about, you know, it's, it was a good RF, a challenging radio frequency environment.
>> And he wanted to give his engineers a big challenge.
>> They want to work all the kinks out before they take it to like the major, major, major markets like New York.
>> Yeah, and it's also where spectrum is available, too. Because this is licensed spectrum, right, so this is not like Wi-Fi which is unlicensed and anybody can use.
>> They have to have a license for it. So it depends on where, but Sprint has the largest amount of two and a half gigahertz spectrum which is what they use for WiMAX.
>> Now, what about European roll outs? Are those gonna be along the same kind of time lines? Are they, do they have test markets there also like in Baltimore?
>> Again, most European carriers are planning to use LTE.
>> Oh, okay, they're gonna wait longer and use LTE.
>> So they're waiting for that technology.
>> Sprint doesn't have a big overseas kind of presence.
>> Let's see, ah, here's a good question about the different companies. Helio and Virgin Mobile, says Buddha Player, use Sprint's 3G network. I did not know that. Does that mean that Helio, and I guess Virgin Mobile, are also gonna be using Sprint's WiMAX?
>> Well, first of all, he's right. Sprint if one of the biggest carriers that resells their spectrum.
>> But it doesn't necessarily mean that they're gonna get the WiMAX service, although that could, they could. They would probably have to have a different agreement with Sprint to get that underway. But they haven't announced anything yet.
>> Okay, okay. So we're gonna have to wait and see on that.
>> Wait and see.
>> And is Intel gonna be supporting this standard in its chip sets?
>> Yes. And it already is.
>> Intel is one of the big proponents of WiMAX. They've invested in the new Clearwire, Sprint joint venture. They're putting a lot of money in it. And they want this to be successful. So if, I think, that's also a good point to make. You know, if you've got Intel in your corner.
>> On your side. So that means it's built into almost every laptop that comes off the production line.
>> Unlike now where you have to buy a separate mobile broadband card or have an antenna put in when you're building the machine.
>> Right, right.
>> If you have a uniform standard then, obviously, you know, it goes a long way.
>> Right. So that could really help promote, but it's really, you know, it's a chicken and egg kind of argument. It's like, you know, do you put the chips in the devices when you don't have the network? Or do you have to wait for the network, you know -
>> Wait till people want it and need it, and then, offer it, and then, by then -
>> Exactly. But I think you need to be doing both of them intangently.
>> Because if you have the network and nobody has any devices that can use it, what's the point?
>> Are we gonna run into the same problem we have now where if I go to Dell and I configure a laptop, I can either choose the AT&T antenna or the Verizon antenna or the Sprint antenna? Am I gonna have the same problem?
>> Do I choose the WiMAX or do I choose the LTE?
>> Yes, you will.
>> Although the WiMAX will be built into the Intel chip set.
>> So maybe that'll be the cheaper choice for me in the event I'm gonna go with that.
>> Maybe. We don't know yet cause LTE is still a few years away.
>> So right now, you don't have a choice.
>> Your only choice, if you want 4G, is Sprint's WiMAX.
>> And move to Baltimore.
>> And then you have to use, and move to Baltimore. Or Chicago.
>> Which is a lovely town. Chicago's nice, too.
>> Right. It's on water.
>> Ah, okay, we have a good question from [inaudible], he wants to know, are you gonna be able to get this kind of service without a separate cell plan from your service provider? Cause right now, you usually have to get like a voice plan, and then, the data plan on top of that.
>> Right. Right now, they're selling it separately
>> Okay. If you're using your laptop, obviously, you don't need a voice plan.
>> Exactly. So they're selling it separately, although, I think it would be interesting to sell it together because I think where the service really becomes interesting is when your using it with a 3G handoff kind of service, right?
>> So, I guess though, maybe, you wouldn't want it as part of your cell phone plan. But, maybe part of your, like, wireless broadband.
>> Sure. Or if you have a really good smart phone where you really want to have all that extra data.
>> Right. And actually, the other thing that would be really cool is if they kind of open this up so you get one subscription and you can use multiple devices. They're doing that a little bit.
>> Ah, okay.
>> I think it's, you can use two devices with a certain plan.
>> On the same account.
>> Right. Of the same account. But I think it would be just like at home, right, you can attach as many devices as you want to your broadband connection.
>> Exactly, cause it's your connection. You're controlling it.
>> Right. I mean, it probably won't happen like that in wireless just because wireless, there is a limit to how much capacity there is on the network.
>> But, we'll see.
>> I can't believe we blew through half an hour already. I got one final question for you.
>> This is probably the unasked question that everyone's got out there, when are we gonna see Steve Chums roll out that iPhone 4G?
>> I don't know. I think not any time soon since it's only on AT&T's network.
>> I know, I know. But that will be when it really finally crosses the line into mainstream, at least mainstream lingo. Now, everybody knows 3G because of the iPhone 3G.
>> You're right which is really weird.
>> Now it's like a big thing.
>> 3g's been around a while longer than the iPhone.
>> So we'll come back here in 2010 for the iPhone 4G.
>> And see how that works. Another exciting episode of Editor's Office Hours, NYC Edition. You can actually come back with us on Monday. We're gonna be doing one right after the other right here in New York. We're gonna have John Falcone, our good friend, talk about all kinds of home theater stuff, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD. Maybe less HD-DVD now, more Blu-Rays, speakers, all that kind of fun stuff so tune right back in here, two thirty Eastern Time on Monday and we will see you then. Bye-bye.
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