If Its Really Fast, Then Its 4G

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-11-03 Print this article Print


More importantly, the sheer speed of the network made using an HSPA+ enabled G2 phone a transforming experience. There's a lot of the Android OS that's cloud-based, and the nearly instant access, high data rates and low latency made the cloud links virtually seamless. Even more impressive was T-Mobile's Rocket 2 USB wireless stick, which appeared to run faster than the WiFi connection at the burger joint where I tried it out. 

The Yankee Group report also makes an important distinction between the old 3G services that have been around for a few years now and the services it's calling 4G: These new services actually work well. The point of this is that if they work well enough, nobody is going to care what the ITU says. As far as they're concerned, they're 4G because everything is faster than the old, cruddy 3G they used with their iPhones. Of course, these new services are indeed an improvement-except if you own an iPhone, in which case you're going to be stuck with AT&T's old, clunky 3G anyway. 

So the question is, what constitutes 4G? Right now, there's no official answer because the ITU hasn't finalized a definition. As a result, 4G is anything you want it to be. The carriers are calling their new higher-speed offerings 4G because they have to call them something, and consumers aren't going to understand what they mean by LTE, WiMax or HSPA+. That's for us geeks who actually read the stuff that comes out of the standard-setting bodies so you don't have to. 

Right now, T-Mobile is using "4G" as a marketing term that translates as "really fast." In fact, it is really fast and, more important, more widely available than 4G from Sprint, which has been hampered by Clearwire's difficulties in deployment, and by Verizon Wireless' late start with LTE. 

Even when Verizon Wireless gets its 38 cities deployed, it will still be behind T-Mobile in the 4G race, and it may be awhile before it catches up. HSPA+ has the advantages that it's easier to upgrade to true 4G and it can use most of the current infrastructure. Sprint, meanwhile, is already looking for a solution to the deployment problems of WiMax-perhaps planning to team up with Clearwire's LTE. Hapless AT&T, on the other hand, may never catch up, considering that it hasn't even started the race and won't until next year. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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