4G is a collection of fourth generation cellular data technologies. It succeeds 3G and is also called "IMT-Advanced," or "International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced." 4G was made available as early as 2005 in South Korea under the name WiMAX and was rolled out in several European countries over the next few years. It became available in the United States in 2009, with Sprint being the first carrier to offer a 4G cellular network.
All 4G standards must conform to a set of specifications created by the International Telecommunications Union. For example, all 4G technologies are required to provide peak data transfer rates of at least 100 Mbps. While actual download and upload speeds may vary based on signal strength and wireless interference, 4G data transfer rates can actually surpass those of cable modem and DSL connections.
Like 3G, there is no single 4G standard. Instead, different cellular providers use different technologies that conform to the 4G requirements. For example, WiMAX is a popular 4G technology used in Asia and Eastern Europe, while LTE (Long Term Evolution) is more popular in Scandinavia and the United States.
Updated: June 7, 2012