Here’s a little something I bet you didn’t know, 3G networks have a hell of a lot of life left in them when it comes to network performance. Sure, 3G started as UMTS, delivering only 384 Kbps, but then HSPA rolled around and gave people 1 Mbps, then 3 Mbps, then 7 Mbps. It’s properly known as 3.5G, but many operators still call it 3G. T-Mobile USA announced it’s rolling out 21 Mbps HSPA+, faster than Clearwire’s “4G”, and now Telefónica Spain is saying that over the next 3 years they’re going to upgrade their “slow” 7.2 Mbps 3G network to 42 Mbps, the maximum speed offered by 3G equipment.
It’s going to take three years to complete, and if regulators approve then 3G will also be shoved on the 900 MHz band, allowing better coverage and penetration inside buildings. For you green freaks out there, this network upgrade, thanks to the use of more modern equipment, is going to save Telefónica Spain 27,000 MWh per year, which is enough power to light up 6,750 homes for 1 whole year!
Now why isn’t Telefónica Spain upgrading to LTE? From a cost savings perspective, it’s cheaper to roll out HSPA+. From a technical perspective, LTE isn’t going to become mainstream in handsets for quite a long time, that and why not let other operators work out the kinks that the world’s first LTE networks encounter, and then avoid those issues when eventually deciding to make the transition?
Marketing people are having a hell of a time figuring out what to call their technology. T-Mobile’s 21 Mbps HSPA+ is still called 3G, TeliaSonera’s LTE network is called 4G, even though LTE-Advanced is technically the proper form of 4G, Clearwire is a joke, and we’re just going to have to wait to see what everyone else is going to call their dumb pipes. Maybe it’s time to forget about “G” all together and just sell consumers on the speed they’re getting. That’s how we buy mobile internet here in Finland. Every internet plan offers unlimited data, you simply pay more for more speed, which is the exact same model home broadband connections use.