While most of us interact with a smartphone or tablet on a daily basis, we haven’t given much thought as to how the technology really works. We send our tweets and status updates out into the digital world and they miraculously appear right where we expect them to. This is not an act of divine intervention, but rather a direct result of the technological advances that have come about over the last decade.

WiLAN

As the tools we use to communicate with became more advanced and capable, networks to transmit the massive amounts of data they produce had to be created and implemented across countries and continents.

Anticipating the growth of the communications sector 30 years ago, telecom companies began investing in networks for mobile telecommunications in the 1980s, with the advent of the car phone. “0G refers to pre-cell phone mobile telephony,” wrote Preeti Jain for Engineers Garage. “Being the predecessors of the first generation of cellular telephones, these systems are called 0G (zero generation) systems.”

Fast forward to today and the industry standard is 4G, with a 5G network being talked about in the pipeline. The current 4G network is the fastest to date and allows us to do a lot of the daily tasks we now expect out of our smartphones.

In 2010, Techspot outlined the specifications that are required for a network to be considered 4G – speed is only one of those outlined specifications. “[4G networks] should be very spectrally efficient, should dynamically share and utilize the network resources to support more simultaneous users per cell, have smooth handovers across heterogeneous networks, offer high quality of service for next generation multimedia support, and should be based on an all-IP packet switched network.”

4G is used to support and implement Long Term Evolution (LTE), Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) and the IEEE 802.16 (WiMax) standard. Today’s 4G networks are 4 to 10 times faster than the 3G predecessor and offer much faster download rates.

While 4G has increased the speed and frequency that we receive data, many experts believe we haven’t even discovered all the capabilities 4G has to offer. “The advent of 4G is likely to benefit not only the telecommunication industry, but also information and communication technology (ICT),” Asina Pornwasin wrote for Nation Multimedia in November.

Experts also predict that 4G’s wide spread functionality will not only help reshape the way society communicates, but can also help developing nations create a strong economic foothold. “Together with cheaper smartphones, 4G will provide equal access to information to everyone,” says Pornwasin. “Farmers will be able to check the price of rice, pork, eggs, online instantly.”

WiLAN, a Canadian intellectual property firm that helps companies monetize their patents, is one company working to further the development of 4G technology. WiLAN holds many patents related to 4G/LTE technology and has provided licenses to some of the world’s largest communications companies, such as Samsung and Nokia. As the dissemination of the 4G network grows, the technology that companies like WiLAN make available are only expected to be in higher demand.

4G Americas, an industry trade organization, is comprised of leading telecommunications service providers and manufacturers in North America. The organization was established with a mandate to advocate for and foster the advancement and full capabilities of existing and emerging mobile broadband technologies, including LTE-Advanced and 4G. Earlier this year, 4G Americas reported that there are now more than 635 million LTE and 4G connections around the globe, with a growth rate of 150 percent.

The rapid growth of the 4G networks evidences society’s growing need for faster and more reliable network connections. Analysts predict this rate will continue to grow as more developing nations come online.