Tech Tuesday

Got Some G's Man?

If you watch any television at all this time of year you're hearing about 4G - just what the heck are they talking about. And should farmers care?

These days we get bombarded with ads and information on a number of levels, I think I've got that silly iPad piano ditty carved into my brain as fancy pictures from this handy tablet flash across the screen.

Now we've got a guy - obviously out of town - running to a mailbox to bring a box back to his shop. He opens it and out comes lightning he can hold (bear with me) - which he then throws into the sky. We're told 4G LTE is coming. And it sure is, but what the heck is 4G?

The G stands for "generation." If you're using any kind of smartphone it's probably a 3G (or third generation) system that matches voice and data at pretty quick data speeds. Keeping up on the markets and the news is a lot easier at those speeds (up to 2 megabytes per second under perfect conditions) than the old 100,000 bytes per second offered by 2G systems (some call 'em 2.5G).

But as you get the hang of the G, you're already hearing about 4G and I'll bet you're asking: Should I care?

Frankly, for farmers, 4G is a ways off. When you hear Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon talk about 4G and the largest deployment - keep in mind that these companies look at population centers - far from the farm.

While Verizon is committed to pushing 4G across its entire network, they're talking 2013. For now 4G is more for city folks - which makes that Verizon ad with the guy in the country a little odd.

There's another issue - which is popping up on tech blogs and news items - now that Verizon has gone public with its system. Previous generation lines were backward compatible with other systems - so if you were on 3G but slipped off to a slower data network (say AT&Ts Edge) you wouldn't see a hiccup. But 4G tech doesn't have the same backwards compatibility.

In some cases there can be a lag if you slip from 4G to 3G. For example, some tech reports have that lag lasting 2 minutes - that's a heck of wait in today's fast-paced world.

Of course, the newest and fastest technology is still just getting out of the starting blocks, and AT&T isn't saying much about 4G (heck its deployment of 3G isn't that wide) - so expect more news there. For now, enjoy the ads - from lightning throwers to jokes about the iPhone and its slower 3G network (symbolized by a fat guy being carried by a younger guy - representing the iPhone 4) in those T-Mobile commercials.

Stick with the best network for your farm and you'll get the service you need. But keep an eye on 4G because 2011 could turn into a competitive year for data plans and equipment.

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