To infinity and beyond with 4G
'D'oh! Isn't there anything faster than a microwave?" whined Homer Simpson 20 years ago, in a perfect demonstration of the human race's impatient quest for quicker technology.
Just a decade ago, many of us were still making do with dial-up speeds in our homes – now we experience up to 100 times that in the palm of our hands on a 3G smartphone, even while travelling at 120kph in a train or car.
But still our appetite for data grows as we become accustomed to watching videos on our phones and even uploading our own clips to social networks, etc.
So fret no more, because the era of 4G is almost upon us in Ireland, theoretically offering speeds of 100Mbps – about 15 times quicker than peak 3G speeds. The reality is likely to be two or three times faster for downloads, though the upload rate will benefit from a huge improvement.
Vodafone has already nominated autumn as the launch window for its 4G service – other networks have yet to show their hand. Vodafone has even felt confident enough to hand out test 4G phones to journalists as the upgrade process gathers pace.
Sure enough, the supplied phone – a Samsung Galaxy S3 – consistently hit a blistering download speed of 26Mbps and 18Mbps upload in Dublin city centre. Of course, that's in ideal conditions with very few others using the network.
It's miles better than 3G and particularly noticeable when uploading big files such as video. However, in other uses, such as web browsing, the extra speed may not be apparent at all.
Inevitably, the 4G rollout will be confined to major urban centres initially and Vodafone won't talk pricing but you can bet it won't be cheap.
Note too that only a handful of existing high-end phones are 4G compatible (a few Samsungs, an HTC, a Nokia Lumia – but the iPhone 5 probably won't be compatible).