Thursday, October 13, 2011

4G nation. Or notion. As “4G” has become a near meaningless term, will American lawmakers pick up where standardization bodies have left off?

Senators look into defining “4G.” STORY >>

4G, or not 4G, that is the deception.

So, can anything be done about generation inflation?

The term 4G has been vague from the beginning. But it’s been getting vaguer, especially in America, where every major operator has hung out a “4G” shingle. Given the lack of clarity, can the U.S. Congress be more consistent than the ITU in defining 4G?

ITU originally pointed to LTE Advanced (and above) and IEEE's 802.16m as two technologies that would meet the criteria of 4G. So at first, not even LTE (as opposed to LTE-A) was considered a 4G technology by the ITU, although most within the mobile industry did consider LTE to be the start of fourth generation wireless services.

But the definition and requirements for 4G were further redefined --and diluted-- by ITU late 2010. Suddenly not only did LTE meet ITU's requirements for 4G, but so did HSPA+, a 3.9G technology. Anyway, some operators who had been offering 3.9G services figured it was fair to round up anyway, so 3.9 became 4.0.

Given the rather meaningless 4G term, it’s somewhat encouraging to see several members of the United States Senate proposing the establishment of a firm definition of 4G mobile services. (I wasn't aware that a similar proposal was made in the U.S. House of Representatives this past June.)

So, as 4G has become a moving target, there has been consumer confusion and even, I think it’s fair to say, some deception. How does one operator’s 4G compare to another’s? How can LTE-A be 4G if HSPA+ is 4G?

It’s time to start talking numbers: like real download and uplink bandwidth. Perhaps Congress can make 4G the exclusive club it was intended to be. Otherwise the generation gap will only get worse.

America's largest 3.9G 4G network

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