“4G” is the new hot term among cell phone providers, and has recently been all over the media as the carriers vie for your money business. 4G is basically a reference to the next generation (currently 3G) of cell network technology, which provides greater bandwidth for mobile devices. The term “4G” is more of a marketing ploy than a technical reference since none of the networks offer true 4G bandwith capability. Each of the major carriers is expanding or will be launching their own versions of 4G over the next several months.

The first to the show was Sprint/Clear(wire) with their WiMAX network, which was first only available to data devices (Internet USB cards, Clear modems, etc.), but is now making it’s way to phones (e.g. Sprint EVO).

T-Mobile had been quietly rolling out it’s HSPA+ network, but recently made a big publicity stunt out of it with it’s 4G commercials comparing itself to AT&T’s network ala Apple’s Mac vs. PC ad campaign. T-Mobile is currently offering several devices – a USB modem, MyTouch 4G, and the G2. HSPA+ isn’t technically a 4G technology, but is capable of delivering speeds comparable to other 4G networks, so T-Mobile jumped on the bandwagon and rebranded as “The nations largest 4G network.”

Verizon will be rolling out it’s much anticipated 4G LTE network, which, according to recent tests, is incredibly fast, up to 10x the speed of it’s current 3G network. Verizon will initially be offering 2 USB modems.

AT&T will be late to the party, rolling out an HSPA+ network, and then later in 2011 has plans to roll out their LTE network.

Gigaom has a great comparison of the currently or soon to be available 4G networks and available devices.

Of course with all of these new wonderfully fast 4G networks, you have to remember, they call it a “roll out” for a reason. You won’t get 4G coverage everywhere, but of course, over time the coverage will get better as the carriers expand their respective networks. For example, when T-Mobile first rolled out their 3G HSPA network, you could only get solid coverage in the Honolulu corridor, and outside of that you would fall back to EDGE. The same will go for the other providers as their 4G networks roll out. If you primarily do your voice/data transmitting in a major metropolitan area, then as an early adopter you will receive adequate coverage. But if you live in the suburbs or out in the country you will probably need to wait until coverage reaches you.

Lifehacker just did an in depth look at 4G, including cost, speed and coverage comparisons.