4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, succeeding 3G. A 4G system must provide capabilities defined by ITU in IMT Advanced. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 4D television.
- Technical understanding
- IMT Advanced requirements
- IMT 2000 compliant 4G standards
- LTE Advanced
- IEEE 802.16m or WirelessMAN Advanced
- 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE)
- Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e)
- TD LTE for China market
- UMB (formerly EV DO Rev. C)
- Flash OFDM
- iBurst and MBWA (IEEE 802.20) systems
- Key features
- Multiplexing and access schemes
- IPv6 support
- Advanced antenna systems
- Open wireless Architecture and Software defined radio (SDR)
- History of 4G and pre 4G technologies
- Beyond 4G research
The first-release Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard (a 4G candidate system) is commercially deployed in Oslo, Norway, and Stockholm, Sweden since 2009. It has, however, been debated whether first-release versions should be considered 4G, as discussed in the technical understanding section below.
In March 2008, the International Telecommunications Union-Radio communications sector (ITU-R) specified a set of requirements for 4G standards, named the International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced (IMT-Advanced) specification, setting peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).
Since the first-release versions of Mobile WiMAX and LTE support much less than 1 Gbit/s peak bit rate, they are not fully IMT-Advanced compliant, but are often branded 4G by service providers. According to operators, a generation of the network refers to the deployment of a new non-backward-compatible technology. On December 6, 2010, ITU-R recognized that these two technologies, as well as other beyond-3G technologies that do not fulfill the IMT-Advanced requirements, could nevertheless be considered "4G", provided they represent forerunners to IMT-Advanced compliant versions and "a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed".
Mobile WiMAX Release 2 (also known as WirelessMAN-Advanced or IEEE 802.16m') and LTE Advanced (LTE-A) are IMT-Advanced compliant backwards compatible versions of the above two systems, standardized during the spring 2011, and promising speeds in the order of 1 Gbit/s. Services were expected in 2013.
As opposed to earlier generations, a 4G system does not support traditional circuit-switched telephony service, but all-Internet Protocol (IP) based communication such as IP telephony. As seen below, the spread spectrum radio technology used in 3G systems, is abandoned in all 4G candidate systems and replaced by OFDMA multi-carrier transmission and other frequency-domain equalization (FDE) schemes, making it possible to transfer very high bit rates despite extensive multi-path radio propagation (echoes). The peak bit rate is further improved by smart antenna arrays for multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) communications.
The nomenclature of the generations generally refers to a change in the fundamental nature of the service, non-backwards-compatible transmission technology, higher peak bit rates, new frequency bands, wider channel frequency bandwidth in Hertz, and higher capacity for many simultaneous data transfers (higher system spectral efficiency in bit/second/Hertz/site).
New mobile generations have appeared about every ten years since the first move from 1981 analog (1G) to digital (2G) transmission in 1992. This was followed, in 2001, by 3G multi-media support, spread spectrum transmission and, at least, 200 kbit/s peak bit rate, in 2011/2012 to be followed by "real" 4G, which refers to all-Internet Protocol (IP) packet-switched networks giving mobile ultra-broadband (gigabit speed) access.
While the ITU has adopted recommendations for technologies that would be used for future global communications, they do not actually perform the standardization or development work themselves, instead relying on the work of other standard bodies such as IEEE, The Wi MAX Forum, and 3GPP.
In the mid-1990s, the ITU-R standardization organization released the IMT-2000 requirements as a framework for what standards should be considered 3G systems, requiring 200 kbit/s peak bit rate. In 2008, ITU -R specified the IMT - Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced) requirements for 4G systems.
The fastest 3G-based standard in the UMTS family is the HSPA+ standard, which is commercially available since 2009 and offers 28 Mbit/s downstream (22 Mbit/s upstream) without MIMO, i.e. only with one antenna, and in 2011 accelerated up to 42 Mbit/s peak bit rate downstream using either DC-HSPA+ (simultaneous use of two 5 MHz UMTS carriers) or 2x2 MIMO. In theory speeds up to 672 Mbit/s are possible, but have not been deployed yet. The fastest 3G-based standard in the CDMA2000 family is the EV-DO Rev. B, which is available since 2010 and offers 15.67 Mbit/s downstream.
This article refers to 4G using IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced), as defined by ITU-R. An IMT-Advanced cellular system must fulfill the following requirements:
In September 2009, the technology proposals were submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as 4G candidates. Basically all proposals are based on two technologies.:
Implementations of Mobile WiMAX and first-release LTE are largely considered a stopgap solution that will offer a considerable boost until WiMAX 2 (based on the 802.16m spec) and LTE Advanced are deployed. The latter's standard versions were ratified in spring 2011, but are still far from being implemented.
The first set of 3GPP requirements on LTE Advanced was approved in June 2008. LTE Advanced was to be standardized in 2010 as part of Release 10 of the 3GPP specification. LTE Advanced will be based on the existing LTE specification Release 10 and will not be defined as a new specification series. A summary of the technologies that have been studied as the basis for LTE Advanced is included in a technical report.
Some sources consider first-release LTE and Mobile WiMAX implementations as pre-4G or near-4G, as they do not fully comply with the planned requirements of 1 Gbit/s for stationary reception and 100 Mbit/s for mobile.
Confusion has been caused by some mobile carriers who have launched products advertised as 4G but which according to some sources are pre-4G versions, commonly referred to as '3.9G', which do not follow the ITU-R defined principles for 4G standards, but today can be called 4G according to ITU-R. Vodafone NL for example, advertised LTE as '4G', while advertising now LTE Advanced as their '4G+' service which actually is (True) 4G. A common argument for branding 3.9G systems as new-generation is that they use different frequency bands from 3G technologies ; that they are based on a new radio-interface paradigm ; and that the standards are not backwards compatible with 3G, whilst some of the standards are forwards compatible with IMT-2000 compliant versions of the same standards.
IMT-2000 compliant 4G standards
As of October 2010, ITU-R Working Party 5D approved two industry-developed technologies (LTE Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced) for inclusion in the ITU's International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced program (IMT-Advanced program), which is focused on global communication systems that will be available several years from now.
LTE AdvancedSee also: 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) below
LTE Advanced (Long Term Evolution Advanced) is a candidate for IMT-Advanced standard, formally submitted by the 3GPP organization to ITU-T in the fall 2009, and expected to be released in 2013. The target of 3GPP LTE Advanced is to reach and surpass the ITU requirements. LTE Advanced is essentially an enhancement to LTE. It is not a new technology, but rather an improvement on the existing LTE network. This upgrade path makes it more cost effective for vendors to offer LTE and then upgrade to LTE Advanced which is similar to the upgrade from WCDMA to HSPA. LTE and LTE Advanced will also make use of additional spectrums and multiplexing to allow it to achieve higher data speeds. Coordinated Multi-point Transmission will also allow more system capacity to help handle the enhanced data speeds. Release 10 of LTE is expected to achieve the IMT Advanced speeds. Release 8 currently supports up to 300 Mbit/s of download speeds which is still short of the IMT-Advanced standards.
IEEE 802.16m or WirelessMAN-Advanced
The IEEE 802.16m or WirelessMAN-Advanced evolution of 802.16e is under development, with the objective to fulfill the IMT-Advanced criteria of 1 Gbit/s for stationary reception and 100 Mbit/s for mobile reception.
3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE)See also: LTE Advanced above
The pre-4G 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology is often branded "4G-LTE", but the first LTE release does not fully comply with the IMT-Advanced requirements. LTE has a theoretical net bit rate capacity of up to 100 Mbit/s in the downlink and 50 Mbit/s in the uplink if a 20 MHz channel is used — and more if multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), i.e. antenna arrays, are used.
The physical radio interface was at an early stage named High Speed OFDM Packet Access (HSOPA), now named Evolved UMTS Terrestrial Radio Access (E-UTRA). The first LTE USB dongles do not support any other radio interface.
The world's first publicly available LTE service was opened in the two Scandinavian capitals, Stockholm (Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks systems) and Oslo (a Huawei system) on December 14, 2009, and branded 4G. The user terminals were manufactured by Samsung. As of November 2012, the five publicly available LTE services in the United States are provided by MetroPCS, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, U.S. Cellular, Sprint, and T-Mobile US.
T-Mobile Hungary launched a public beta test (called friendly user test) on 7 October 2011, and has offered commercial 4G LTE services since 1 January 2012.
In South Korea, SK Telecom and LG U+ have enabled access to LTE service since 1 July 2011 for data devices, slated to go nationwide by 2012. KT Telecom closed its 2G service by March 2012, and complete the nationwide LTE service in the same frequency around 1.8 GHz by June 2012.
In the United Kingdom, LTE services were launched by EE in October 2012, and by O2 and Vodafone in August 2013.
Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e)
The Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e-2005) mobile wireless broadband access (MWBA) standard (also known as WiBro in South Korea) is sometimes branded 4G, and offers peak data rates of 128 Mbit/s downlink and 56 Mbit/s uplink over 20 MHz wide channels.
In June 2006, the world's first commercial mobile WiMAX service was opened by KT in Seoul, South Korea.
Sprint has begun using Mobile WiMAX, as of 29 September 2008, branding it as a "4G" network even though the current version does not fulfill the IMT Advanced requirements on 4G systems.
In Russia, Belarus and Nicaragua WiMax broadband internet access was offered by a Russian company Scartel, and was also branded 4G, Yota.
TD-LTE for China market
Just as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX are being vigorously promoted in the global telecommunications industry, the former (LTE) is also the most powerful 4G mobile communications leading technology and has quickly occupied the Chinese market. TD-LTE, one of the two variants of the LTE air interface technologies, is not yet mature, but many domestic and international wireless carriers are, one after the other turning to TD-LTE.
IBM's data shows that 67% of the operators are considering LTE because this is the main source of their future market. The above news also confirms IBM's statement that while only 8% of the operators are considering the use of WiMAX, WiMAX can provide the fastest network transmission to its customers on the market and could challenge LTE.
TD-LTE is not the first 4G wireless mobile broadband network data standard, but it is China's 4G standard that was amended and published by China's largest telecom operator – China Mobile. After a series of field trials, is expected to be released into the commercial phase in the next two years. Ulf Ewaldsson, Ericsson's vice president said: "the Chinese Ministry of Industry and China Mobile in the fourth quarter of this year will hold a large-scale field test, by then, Ericsson will help the hand." But viewing from the current development trend, whether this standard advocated by China Mobile will be widely recognized by the international market is still debatable.
UMB (formerly EV-DO Rev. C)
UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband) was the brand name for a discontinued 4G project within the 3GPP2 standardization group to improve the CDMA2000 mobile phone standard for next generation applications and requirements. In November 2008, Qualcomm, UMB's lead sponsor, announced it was ending development of the technology, favouring LTE instead. The objective was to achieve data speeds over 275 Mbit/s downstream and over 75 Mbit/s upstream.
At an early stage the Flash-OFDM system was expected to be further developed into a 4G standard.
iBurst and MBWA (IEEE 802.20) systems
The iBurst system (or HC-SDMA, High Capacity Spatial Division Multiple Access) was at an early stage considered to be a 4G predecessor. It was later further developed into the Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA) system, also known as IEEE 802.20.
The following key features can be observed in all suggested 4G technologies:
As opposed to earlier generations, 4G systems do not support circuit switched telephony. IEEE 802.20, UMB and OFDM standards lack soft-handover support, also known as cooperative relaying.
Multiplexing and access schemes
Recently, new access schemes like Orthogonal FDMA (OFDMA), Single Carrier FDMA (SC-FDMA), Interleaved FDMA, and Multi-carrier CDMA (MC-CDMA) are gaining more importance for the next generation systems. These are based on efficient FFT algorithms and frequency domain equalization, resulting in a lower number of multiplications per second. They also make it possible to control the bandwidth and form the spectrum in a flexible way. However, they require advanced dynamic channel allocation and adaptive traffic scheduling.
WiMax is using OFDMA in the downlink and in the uplink. For the LTE (telecommunication), OFDMA is used for the downlink; by contrast, Single-carrier FDMA is used for the uplink since OFDMA contributes more to the PAPR related issues and results in nonlinear operation of amplifiers. IFDMA provides less power fluctuation and thus requires energy-inefficient linear amplifiers. Similarly, MC-CDMA is in the proposal for the IEEE 802.20 standard. These access schemes offer the same efficiencies as older technologies like CDMA. Apart from this, scalability and higher data rates can be achieved.
The other important advantage of the above-mentioned access techniques is that they require less complexity for equalization at the receiver. This is an added advantage especially in the MIMO environments since the spatial multiplexing transmission of MIMO systems inherently require high complexity equalization at the receiver.
In addition to improvements in these multiplexing systems, improved modulation techniques are being used. Whereas earlier standards largely used Phase-shift keying, more efficient systems such as 64QAM are being proposed for use with the 3GPP Long Term Evolution standards.
Unlike 3G, which is based on two parallel infrastructures consisting of circuit switched and packet switched network nodes, 4G will be based on packet switching only. This will require low-latency data transmission.
By the time that 4G was deployed, the process of IPv4 address exhaustion was expected to be in its final stages. Therefore, in the context of 4G, IPv6 is essential to support a large number of wireless-enabled devices. By increasing the number of IP addresses available, IPv6 removes the need for network address translation (NAT), a method of sharing a limited number of addresses among a larger group of devices, although NAT will still be required to communicate with devices that are on existing IPv4 networks.
As of June 2009, Verizon has posted specifications that require any 4G devices on its network to support IPv6.
Advanced antenna systems
The performance of radio communications depends on an antenna system, termed smart or intelligent antenna. Recently, multiple antenna technologies are emerging to achieve the goal of 4G systems such as high rate, high reliability, and long range communications. In the early 1990s, to cater for the growing data rate needs of data communication, many transmission schemes were proposed. One technology, spatial multiplexing, gained importance for its bandwidth conservation and power efficiency. Spatial multiplexing involves deploying multiple antennas at the transmitter and at the receiver. Independent streams can then be transmitted simultaneously from all the antennas. This technology, called MIMO (as a branch of intelligent antenna), multiplies the base data rate by (the smaller of) the number of transmit antennas or the number of receive antennas. Apart from this, the reliability in transmitting high speed data in the fading channel can be improved by using more antennas at the transmitter or at the receiver. This is called transmit or receive diversity. Both transmit/receive diversity and transmit spatial multiplexing are categorized into the space-time coding techniques, which does not necessarily require the channel knowledge at the transmitter. The other category is closed-loop multiple antenna technologies, which require channel knowledge at the transmitter.
Open-wireless Architecture and Software-defined radio (SDR)
One of the key technologies for 4G and beyond is called Open Wireless Architecture (OWA), supporting multiple wireless air interfaces in an open architecture platform.
SDR is one form of open wireless architecture (OWA). Since 4G is a collection of wireless standards, the final form of a 4G device will constitute various standards. This can be efficiently realized using SDR technology, which is categorized to the area of the radio convergence.
History of 4G and pre-4G technologies
The 4G system was originally envisioned by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The DARPA selected the distributed architecture and end-to-end Internet protocol (IP), and believed at an early stage in peer-to-peer networking in which every mobile device would be both a transceiver and a router for other devices in the network, eliminating the spoke-and-hub weakness of 2G and 3G cellular systems. Since the 2.5G GPRS system, cellular systems have provided dual infrastructures: packet switched nodes for data services, and circuit switched nodes for voice calls. In 4G systems, the circuit-switched infrastructure is abandoned and only a packet-switched network is provided, while 2.5G and 3G systems require both packet-switched and circuit-switched network nodes, i.e. two infrastructures in parallel. This means that in 4G, traditional voice calls are replaced by IP telephony.
Since 2009 the LTE-Standard has strongly evolved over the years, resulting in many deployments by various operators across the globe. For an overview of commercial LTE networks and their respective historic development see: List of LTE networks. Among the vast range of deployments many operators are considering the deployment and operation of LTE networks. A compilation of planned LTE deployments can be found at: List of planned LTE networks.
Beyond 4G research
A major issue in 4G systems is to make the high bit rates available in a larger portion of the cell, especially to users in an exposed position in between several base stations. In current research, this issue is addressed by macro-diversity techniques, also known as group cooperative relay, and also by Beam-Division Multiple Access (BDMA).
Pervasive networks are an amorphous and at present entirely hypothetical concept where the user can be simultaneously connected to several wireless access technologies and can seamlessly move between them (See vertical handoff, IEEE 802.21). These access technologies can be Wi-Fi, UMTS, EDGE, or any other future access technology. Included in this concept is also smart-radio (also known as cognitive radio) technology to efficiently manage spectrum use and transmission power as well as the use of mesh routing protocols to create a pervasive network.