Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

DURHAM, N.C. – Like virtually all of us living in America, our lives and businesses have been transformed by the rise of the computer, the Internet and networking. But as hard as it may be to fathom, we haven’t seen anything yet.

Watch out for the era of the “Mobile Internet Computing,” says self-proclaimed technologist Vince Lesch, chief technology officer at (Nasdaq: TKLC).

The coming decade in which high-speed mobile broadband will be enabled through “4G” technology is going to “transform our lives,” Lesch told the crowd of N.C. business leaders gathered for Local Tech Wire’s Executive Exchange event on Tuesday. “To a technologist like me, this is exciting.”

Lesch along with executives from emerging 4G providers Sprint, Verizon and Time Warner Cable as well as Voice over Internet Protocol provider FeatureTel and News Over Wireless discussed at length the arrival of mobile computing at multi-gigabit speeds. The Research Triangle area is one of the first regions in the country to have multiple 4G providers already opening fast access to video, data and voice at any time in many places.

Other panelists included Teresa Kellett, director, 4G for Sprint Nextel; where she is responsible Michael Miess, vice president of wireless for Time Warner Cable Carolinas; Mike Parker, the director of data with Verizon Wireless in the Carolinas and Tennessee; Paul Levering, CEO and founder of FeatureTel, and Sam Matheny, general manager of Capitol Broadcasting’s News Over Wireless.

Tekelec, which is a global communications technology firm based in Morrisville, provides numbering, switching, messaging and other technology that helps telecommunications provides meet growing demand for digital services. Consumers and business users are so intent on new applications at faster speeds that Lesch said his company sees immediate impact when upgrades and additions are made.

“You can actually spot on the networks who has launched a new device or new apps,” Lesch explained.

4G to equal Internet?

As communications go digital based on Internet Protocols, chips grow faster and smarter, enabling such solutions as automatic switching between types of network service, and 4G enables greater reliability at much faster speeds, Lesch said a new era beckons.

“Mobile Internet computing will be just as important as the rise of the Internet,” he predicted.

How so? As examples, Lesch noted that doctors will use secure wireless access to prescribe a treatment regimen for a patient while he or she is playing golf. Or, smartphone users will execute “apps” for just about everything from full-motion high-definition video to secure, reliable enterprise business uses. Businesses, meanwhile, will begin turning away from fast wireline pipes in the ground to wireless connectivity.

Even people or businesses who don’t believe 4G will affect them will soon discover the reality is different, Lesch warned.

“If you don’t think your business will be affected,” Lesch said, “you will be involved” as more enterprises large and small embrace mobile Internet computing.

“4G,” he concluded, “will fundamentally shift how we do business.”

What’s enabling 4G is advances in WiMax (used by Sprint and Time Warner Cable) and digital wireless known as LTE (used by Verizon) that enable transmission of digital voice, video and data at multi-megabit speeds.

While 1G represented wireless voice, 2G and 2.5G represented digital voice and digital data at kilobits per second and 3G enabling up to megabit-plus access, 4G opens the way for downloads at 50 megabits and uploads up to 25 megabits.

Who will survive?

Referencing a December 2009 report from Morgan Stanley, Lesch recounted how technology evolved in decades from mainframe computing (1960s) to mini-computing (1970s), personal computing (1980s) and desktop Internet computing (1990s).

The next major “computing cycle” is the Mobile Internet with the “winners” of earlier decades such as IBM (mainframe) and HP (mini-computing) evolving to flourish and survive as technology continues to improve.

Some of the early winners have disappeared or been absorbed. Will the PC successes like Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Dell of personal computing continue to grow along with the crop of firms such as Google, eBay and Amazon “cross the chasm” to success in a truly mobile world?

4G is still in the process of being rolled out, so, Lesch conceded, “There clearly still are some challenges.” But he added the days of ubiquitous access are at hand. “We will get there pretty quickly.”

The dawn of a new era has broken.

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