Over the past five years, the evolution of wireless networks to 3G data speeds, alongside increasingly sophisticated yet cost-effective cellular routers and antennas, has allowed many kiosk and digital signage deployers to have either successfully deployed stable networks using cellular technologies or at least seriously consider it as a viable alternative to landline options.
Now that 4G is available via Sprint and Clearwire, what does that mean for kiosk and digital signage deployers interested in deploying a cellular network?
4G is especially compelling for those deployers with bandwidth-intense applications, such as content streaming or video. Consider that with more bandwidth, applications such as a live video call from the kiosk to a customer service agent to enhance the user experience are very possible and can be delivered with great quality.
First, though, let me offer a word of caution: I believe we are experiencing the dawn of a new world for cellular networks, meaning this is just the beginning. For self-service it's promising, it's real and it will allow for the support of applications that we could only dream of before. But in order to adopt 4G completely for the purposes of an un-manned, machine-to-machine, mission critical network, many factors need to be considered and vetted out before rolling full force ahead.
Now, let's first take a look at the technology itself and what is available today in the United States.
What is 4G?
4G refers to the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards and is the successor to 3G and 2G standards. In the same manner that data-transmission speeds increased from 2G to 3G and allowed for the adoption of new applications utilizing cellular networks, the leap from 3G to 4G again promises higher data rates and lower latencies that could realistically support applications such as real-time streaming of multimedia voice, data and video.
The 4G spectrum services available through Clearwire and Sprint are based on a technology known as WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access). WiMAX is an international standard developed expressly for sending high-speed data signals to mobile users that blends the speeds of Wi-Fi with the portability of cellular. It broadcasts on the 2.5-GHz portion of the radio frequency spectrum and has a longer range. In the real world (not the lab), speed depends on variables such as how many subscribers are using the network at the same time, how far you are from a transmitting tower and how congested is the Internet. However, a realistic expectation can be up to 3 Megs or 5 Megs per second download, which to a user will feel more like a high-speed DSL or cable type of experience.
What markets are available to deployers today?
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