I decided to write this one after some comments I received for something I said on Engadget. I was told that view of 4G is wrong. So I felt that I needed to explain what counts as 4G.
What 4G is SUPPOSE to be(the Standard)?
There was a 4G standard that was created by the ITU(International Telecommunications Union) back in 2009. The IMT-Advance((International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced) standard set then says that 4G is mobile broadband that delivers interoperable, 100Mbit/s of data speed on high mobility(cell phones) and 1GBit/s on low mobility systems(local wireless). At that time, the only two technologies that were considered 4G was LTE-Advance and IEEE 802.16 Standard P802.16m. Wondering what they second one is? That is wirelessMAN-Advance or WiMAX 2. So by that standard, no company has actual 4G. But that is not where this story ends.
What is 4G(Reality & Redefinition)?
Okay, so this is where this get fun. So we have a group that made up a standard on what is considered 4G. But carriers starting rolling out new data networks. In the US, it started with Sprint Nextel and their WiMAX network, then there was T-Mobile’s HSPA+, MetroPCS and their LTE network which was followed by Verizon and their LTE network. These different networks all provide different theoretical and realistic speeds but none means the 4G standard. All of these companies marketed their new data network as 4G despite that fact. In their defense, the UK was the first to market WiMAX as 4G with the HTC MAX 4G. Partly, this decision was made(at least I think it was made) on the premise that the everyday consumer does not know what the 4G “standard” that was created is. And this is true. If you never knew what the standard for 4G was and was given a device that is clearly faster than what you were told was 3G then it would not be hard to believe that what you are using is 4G. This was also done to save some confusion(more on that later). But those in the know called them out on it right away.
And here comes the part that I was told I was wrong on. I said that since 4G is; in all reality; a made-up standard, what counts as 4G can be whatever companies with influence say it is. I was immediately told I was wrong and that WiMAX was not true 4G. But what I knew that everyone seems to like to forget is what happened last October. In October, the ITU loosened the standard on what is considered 4G. They did so, well, because of the carriers. The said this:
“As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as ’4G,’ although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed,”
So because the carriers ignored the ITU standard set as 4G, the standard was refined to fit what the carriers wanted to market as 4G. So now, LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+ is technically considered 4G.
Whats this means to you?
Now that you were just told that what you have been told is 4G is technically only considered 4G because the carriers totally ignored the standard set, what does that mean to you? Well, this means that all of the networks used by carriers can be considered 4G. Thanks to the fact they ignored the standard and force it to be redefined. But in all actuality, by calling networks like WiMAX and LTE 4G they are basically saving their self some steps and confusion. What the ITU set as the standard for 4G is actually upgrades to these networks, not new one. So instead of confusing consumers by calling these networks what they really are, they called it 4G. And because they did this they influenced the standard to be changed.