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WebWise news report - Next generation mobiles

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 13:52 UK time, Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A major mobile phone firm has warned that it may begin running out of capacity in urban areas if auctions of new mobile phone frequencies do not go ahead as planned. Ofcom currently hopes that UK operators will be able to bid for space on the new 4G spectrum of phone frequencies sometime in mid-2012.

But with all these Gs flying around, what exactly are they bidding for? The letter G is meant to stand for generation, but with the technology world growing up so fast, it's had to fit in other progress markers along the way. Within the umbrella of 3G there are variations, with something called HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) enhancing the service to give faster data download speeds. Enhanced 3G services are sometimes called 3G+ or anything between 3.5 and 3.9G.

Phone manufacturers confuse the situation further by describing their models as 4G, when actually they're referring to their ‘next generation' of phone, leading consumers to think they must therefore be getting the full 4G service, when in fact they're still on 3G. When the full 4G service does come about there'll of course be shiny new phones to match, but there's no need to upgrade just yet.

Just as I think I'm getting my head around all the G-babble, I look to my own phone to find the letters don't always align anyway. When my phone shows the letter G, it actually means 2G; when it shows an E it's using EDGE, which despite being dubbed 2.5G, is still technically 2G. Of course as a general rule, the higher the G, the better the data speed and when it works, it's great!

Seemingly spending half my life on trains, going through 3G+ areas always bring about a rush of excitement as I realise I have a short window in which to download anything from songs and video clips to applications and games. On a recent long and dull train journey I was able to take advantage of 3G+ and download a 5mb game (that's the same size as a 4 minute mp3 song file) in around a minute – relieving some of the tedium of the trip. That's almost the same as my home broadband speed. But that was of course only for a short stretch of the journey.

It's the availability that the network operators – and we as consumers – are after. Better, faster data coverage that's more accessible. With the changes that have already been made to daily life thanks to mobile data, you can understand why everyone wants a piece of the 4G pie.

Learn more about mobile phones with the WebWise guides.

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