TeliaSonera, a Swedish telecom company on Monday launched the next generation 4G service in Sweden and Norway. At 100 Mbps, the networking speed is up to 10 times faster than what current 3G networks offer. That kind of blazing speed is not available to US consumers.
Yes, there are a few companies here that claim 4G coverage, but their speed is nothing compared to what TeliaSonera is offering. Nextel's 4G maxes out at 10Mbps. Companies like Comcast that are offering 4G coverage based on Clearwire's network can offer speeds only up to 4 Mbps. So clearly, the prize for the first blazing 4G network goes to TeliaSonera.
It's not a surprise that they are ahead. We have always lagged behind Europe and Asia on cell phone technology. Carriers in the US are fighting more over coverage than speed, as Verizon's anti-AT&T "There is a map for that" campaign shows. But that could soon change.
A steep rise in data phone usage, Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch suggests, has caused US carriers to scramble to maintain service. Verizon intends to introduce 4G service in 2010, and AT&T in 2011.
There is a silver lining to the Swedes beating us on this one. New technology comes with new engineering problems, and while the Swedes iron out the kinks, U.S. carriers can learn from their experience. Furthermore, 4G-specific applications are not available, which means US consumers are not missing out on much except the speed. So all is well, except that lingering unease that the U.S. is once again playing catch up.