Farmers frustrated by lack of access to higher-speed Internet services could find themselves in the Internet fast lane in the next couple of years, because of 4G (fourth generation) cellular communications networks.
Although a variety of technologies will be harnessed, the new 4G networks will be the most important in deploying high-speed Internet services in rural areas, according to a network communications analyst.
“Four G is the most promising technology for a ubiquitous high-speed Internet experience at a reasonable price point,” says Ken Rehbehn, an analyst for the Boston-based Yankee Group, which tracks global connectivity trends. Typically, 4G systems provide download speeds of 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps), compared to 1.5 Mbps, at most, for 3G systems.
The build-out of 4G networks by Verizon, AT & T, Sprint and others is just getting under way. The early 4G introductions have been in urban areas. But coverage will move out into rural areas as more aggressive cellular providers seek a seamless coverage umbrella coast to coast.
Although it took years for 3G networks to proliferate in rural areas, the growth of the 4G system will be faster, Rehbehn says. That’s because many cellular providers for 4G services will use the 700-megahertz (MHz) radio spectrum, which was formerly used to broadcast analog television signals. It has roughly twice the reach of the radio spectrum used by earlier cellular communications networks. This reduces deployment costs and speeds the build-out.
Verizon will lead the way in developing rural coverge, Rehbehn predicts. “In order to get a comprehensive roaming footprint across the U.S., Verizon will move very quickly,” he says. “It may take into 2012 to get every nook and cranny built out.”
Fiber optic cable and higher-speed fixed wireless systems also will contribute to higher speed Internet access in some rural areas, Reh-behn says. Satellite-based Internet services are likely to be left behind.
“It’s expensive to launch a satellite, so costs to provide extra bandwidth are high,” Rehbehn says. “That is a major impediment.” – David Hest