All four major U.S. carriers have some form of a 4G network but a new bill introduced by Congress would aim to clarify what exactly “4G” means.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo and it would require carriers to tell users exactly what they’re getting with their 4G network. This would include things like download speeds, coverage, reliability and more. Think of it like that sticker for fuel efficiency but for mobile networks.
“Consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re getting for their money when they sign-up for a 4G data plan,” said Eshoo in a statement sent to the press. “We need to enhance transparency and ensure consumers are fully informed before they commit to a long-term service contract.”
I understand the idea behind this (and it will likely help her connect with constituents) but I doubt this is the right way to go with this issue. I mean, the ITU barely knows how to clarify 4G, so I doubt the average consumer will be able to determine what’s better or different. Most will likely stick with the carrier they’re on, which carrier has the phone they want or which network has the best download speed.
This issue really got kicked into high gear when T-Mobile started calling its HSPA+ network “4G” and this was quickly followed by AT&T rebranding its HSPA+ as “4G” as well. At least T-Mobile’s network can get a theoretical 42 Mbps, so that labeling may not be as egregious.
Sprint’s WiMax and Verizon’s LTE network are widely considered to be true 4G even though the ITU originally said only networks that could get 100 Mbps down should have that label. I’m all for transparency and more accurate information but I’m almost at the point where I’m willing to accept that these are all marketing gimmicks now. As long as I get more than 10 Mbps down, more than 5 Mbps up and have low latency, the carriers can call it whatever they want.