What Does 4G Mean for Congress

Image courtesy of Politico

Wireless service providers such as Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T are enthusiastically touting their new 4G capabilities.  Verizon already raves that it possesses “The Fastest, Most Advanced 4G Network.”  As 4G technology becomes more prevalent, how will Congressional offices have to adjust in order to expand their messaging and communicate with their key supporters?

Before diving into how 4G technology will help Congress, it is first important to explain what the term means.  4G refers to fourth generation wireless networks, but there is no official definition or standard agreement of what constitutes next-generation technology, according to The Atlantic.

Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) are the two primary mobile communications standards capable of running wireless technology at 4G speed.  In North America, Verizon and AT&T use LTE while Sprint utilizes WiMax, but the differences between the two technologies are negligible.

For the average mobile phone user, 3G and 4G are virtually indistinguishable.  Users will only notice 4G’s enhancements when it comes to mobile downloading.  Want to watch a television show on your phone?  Want to download a movie?  Then your 4G phone is going to demonstrate remarkable progress.  Ultimately, 4G speed will be as fast as cable and the technology will mitigate the need for wired internet – as this CNN article reports.

Mobile video usage is skyrocketing in the United States.  A recent Nielsen report finds that mobile video viewership increased 44 percent from the second quarter of 2009 to the second quarter of 2010.  Consequently, research from IDC suggests that smartphone sales will increase 22 percent in 2011, meaning mobile TV and video are going to continue to increase exponentially.

As 4G technology becomes more prevalent and the public turns to smartphones and tablets as its primary source for video and news, Members of Congress must ensure their websites are mobile ready.  In addition, any videos produced by Congressional staff will need to be optimized for both PCs and mobile devices.  As mobile video conferencing continues to expand – as we are seeing with the new iPhone 4 – Members will have expanded opportunities to video conference with constituents in their home district at little cost.

4G is going to open up new avenues for Senators and Representatives to connect with their constituents and expand their messaging.  It is important for Congressional offices to begin assessing new available technologies now, in order to be prepared when the majority of the public is mobile.  This means establishing robust social media channels, developing smartphone apps, and hiring multimedia staff capable of producing high-quality content.



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