Not All 4G is Created Equal

by Matt Klassen on June 27, 2011

In a candidate for the understatement of the year, there seems to be some confusion surrounding the name “4G” as it pertains to the next generation wireless networks being rolled out on both sides of the border. Wireless carriers themselves, desperate to attract some of the ever increasing percentage of North Americans already locked into a cellphone contract, are playing fast and loose with the truth, with almost everyone touting themselves as the “fasted,” “most powerful,” and or “best” network in the land. But can anyone really get to the truth of the matter?

We’ve already talked at length here at TheTelecomblog about the fact that next generation LTE, WiMax, and HSPA+ networks didn’t conform to the global definition of a 4G network—that is until the definition was changed—and the fact that even if carriers were delivering 4G network speeds your phone wouldn’t even be able to utilize them, but the bottom line is, who really has the fasted network available? Who has the best 4G? And what does “4G” mean anyways?

They’re questions that Democratic Rep. of California Anna Eshoo is determined to get answers to.

While there once was a universal network data transfer rate standard that individual networks would have to meet in order to be officially labelled “3G” or “4G,” it was several months ago now that the International Telecommunications Union—the body responsible for setting standards and establishing official network definitions—decided to change its speed requirements to allow North American wireless carriers to call their respective networks “4G.”

But beyond the fact that none of the networks met the ITU’s initial standards for official “4G” status, the truth is that not even all pseudo-4G networks are created equal, meaning that two companies could offer two different network speeds, and still both be touting their product as ‘4G.’

So how does one wade through this confusing quagmire of marketing buzzwords and technological doublespeak? Realizing that consumers were being inundated with misleading and vague information about the realities behind the various 4G networks across America, Democratic Rep. of California Anna Eshoo has proposed a bill in Congress that would demand more transparency from wireless carriers, providing consumers will clear and concise information about network speed, network coverage, pricing, and a layman’s explanation of the technology involved.

Taking network transparency one step further, however, the bill would also demand carriers provide the details of their competitors network information as well in an accurate side-by-side comparison, allowing consumers to see what “4G” really means to each individual carrier and thus make an informed decision about which wireless network is really right for them.

While I’m sure this sort of governmental interference is ruffling the feathers of carriers both north and south of the border, it’s a move that’s clearly needed in a market increasingly dominated by confusing techno-babble and misleading marketing, allowing us all to see what carrier really is the “fastest,” “most powerful,” and “best” in the land.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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