It never fails. I know marketing teams are all about the future, but consumers have barely dipped their toes into the world of wireless broadband technology -- enabled by what's called the third generation, or 3G -- before the fourth generation (4G) swoops in to steal the limelight.
At the huge Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this week, much of the buzz is about leaping into the next generation. Today, consumers typically use wireless download speeds hovering around 1 megabit per second on AT&T
But even though LTE is commercially a long way out and speeds will invariably fall well short of theoretical maximums, companies are clamoring to back the standard and participate in the potential upgrade cycle. French telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent
Other platforms are competing for the 4G title as well, including WiMax and a system called Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) favored by Qualcomm
Still, while the largest of wireless infrastructure and device manufacturers, among them Samsung, Nortel
For instance, Alvarion
Investors should always take the marketing phase of new technologies with a grain of salt. Reality of the future rarely coincides with the spin of the present. But small players can see their stock dramatically affected as the winds blow between platforms gaining momentum and those slowly withering. A single platform focus increases the risk of an investment, but also the rewards, if it is right.
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Fool contributor Dave Mock hopes to enjoy now a little longer before it's gone. He owns shares of Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm, and he is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. The Fool's disclosure policy downloads faster than you can blink.