Apr 13, 2012 (Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
You can't catch a Miami Heat game or American Idol show on TV without being bombarded by commercials touting the availability of 4G mobile service for smartphones and tablets.
Unfortunately, 4G service and coverage is fledgling in Florida, available in some spots, not others depending on carrier. But 4G -- the fastest available mobile network standard -- is spreading fast here, and there are plenty of bargains and benefits worth knowing about.
For instance, you can get cheap 4G service even if you don't have a 4G device or plan.
Last month NetZero began offering residents in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando, a 4G "hotspot" service at no cost for up to a year. The data plan is limited to 200 MB per month, the equivalent of 3,000 emails or 20 minutes of video.
"We are going after soccer moms, business travelers and those people who want secure 4G service while traveling from or two Florida on vacation," said David Shein, a company spokesman, and others who want intermittent, no-contract 4G service.
Users of the no-cost NetZero plan must purchase a wireless "hotspot" device, which range in price from $49 to $99. These devices can connect multiple cell phones, tablets and other devices wirelessly, and simultaneously, to the Web to download music, photos and videos. And they deliver 4G speeds -- where available -- to non-4G devices, such as an iPhone or Android phone.
Other 4G highlights:
AT&T unveiled 4G HSPA+ service in limited parts of South Florida in 2011. Today, it is available from Pembroke Pines to Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton to West Palm Beach, delivering download speeds up to four times faster than 3G service. The carrier unveiled its speedier 4G LTE service (up to 10 times faster than 3G) in Orlando in January.
AT&T spokesperson Kelly Layne Starling could not say when South Florida will catch up to Orlando's 4G LTE, but she said they would continue to roll out 4G LTE throughout Florida in 2012 and 2013.
While 4G is coming quickly, don't feel pressure to pay more for devices and service.
MetroPCS began delivering 4G LTE in South Florida about a year ago and is now available in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. "But we recognize others will continue using non-4G phones," said company spokesperson Anuradha Koli. "We're committed to supporting them."
Check carrier Websites for local 4G-coverage maps.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-356-4219 or 561-243-6686.
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