The ITU recently decided that two wireless technologies would be worthy of the 4G title: WiMax 2 and LTE-Advanced. Despite the decision, however, Sprint has continued to call its WiMax network “4G,” and surprisingly around that time T-Mobile decided to launch a massive campaign calling its HSPA+ network “America’s Largest 4G Network.” This week, at a meeting in Geneva, the ITU formally accepted LTE-Advanced as a true 4G technology.
Why do the U.S. carriers insist on calling its WiMax and LTE networks “4G” networks? Ask Sprint or T-Mobile and they’ll both tell you that its really all about the user experience. WiMax and LTE deliver download, upload and latency speeds that are much better than 3G, hence the next generation label. However, these new networks deliver real-world speeds of up to 3-9Mbps download and about 3-5 upload–the ITU says that true 4G technologies will deliver speeds of 1Gbps localized, and up to 100Mbps mobile. That is a far, far cry from what WiMax, HSPA+ and LTE will be offering in the States within the coming months.
By the ITU’s standards, we may not see “true” 4G technology and speeds for quite some time. Next year Sprint will focus on building out its WiMax network for more coverage (if it doesn’t make some surprise switch to LTE itself), Verizon will expand its LTE network and AT&T will also make strides forward with its own LTE efforts.
Again, I find myself thinking, “Does it matter what the carriers call it anymore? Is it good enough that we’re making incremental progress and that the mobile broadband experience gets a little better every year?” And then I feel better until I realize that carriers like TeliaSonera offers its customers a gazillion megabits per second and we’re lagging so far behind.
For more info, check out the press release on the next page.