Carriers Rush to Declare Their 4G Worthiness
Both T-Mobile and Clearwire point out that today's 4G speeds are only the beginning. Both companies say they have a plan that will eventually let them grow to true 4G speeds in the next year or two. Verizon Wireless spokesperson Tony Melone said that his company isn't planning to increase speeds beyond the current LTE network's capability, at least not in the immediate future. Melone pointed out that the company's first priority is covering its existing 3G footprint with 4G as well, a task he said will take until 2013.Melone also said Verizon Wireless is building its network with an eye toward robustness. When asked about the network's ability to support massive demand for 4G, such as when Verizon gets the iPhone, Melone responded, "That's what we do."Unlike its two competitors, however, Verizon's Melone admitted that while the company is calling its LTE service 4G, it realizes that it doesn't meet the ITU requirements. His position is that what really matters is the customer experience, and that customers will find the new Verizon Wireless LTE to be a lot faster than 3G. He also made it clear that LTE and the other high-speed services have been called 4G for a few years now, so it's what customers expect. He said that the fact that it doesn't meet ITU standards isn't really relevant. "We could call it chicken soup and it wouldn't matter," as long as it's fast enough, he pointed out. While the new Verizon 4G service will launch Dec. 5, it'll be a couple of months before you can buy anything besides a USB wireless stick for the service. Actual phones won't be available until sometime in 2011. Melone said they'll be in stores by midyear, but when asked about statements that the first phones will be ready by February, he didn't deny that those dates were still correct. Verizon's Dec. 1 announcement wasn't a big surprise. The company said it would have 4G this month, although it appears that it's arriving earlier than originally anticipated. That announcement kicked off announcements by the other aspiring 4G vendors, none of whom is actually providing 4G right now. But Verizon's 4G announcement at least clears the way for faster coverage by all but one of the major carriers. From the respective announcements, it seems that the offerings are more or less equivalent, although none of the carriers would admit that, of course. But the good news is that connectivity is now really fast from everyone except AT&T, and regardless of what you call it, that's a good thing.