Mobile
Commentary
1/7/2011
00:07 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Its Not 4G, Its Faux G

The carriers continue to change the definition of 4G to make their marketing pitch better. Numbers followed by the letter G are becoming as entrenched in the consumer's mind as processor speeds were in the 90's. While processor speeds didn't tell the whole story, they were at least accurate. The same cannot be said for the names used to describe the generation a particular network is. Marketing has won. Truth in advertising has lost.

The carriers continue to change the definition of 4G to make their marketing pitch better. Numbers followed by the letter G are becoming as entrenched in the consumer's mind as processor speeds were in the 90's. While processor speeds didn't tell the whole story, they were at least accurate. The same cannot be said for the names used to describe the generation a particular network is. Marketing has won. Truth in advertising has lost.4G speeds, real 4G, are specified as 100Mbit/sec for a mobile device moving at a fairly high rate of speed relative to the base station and 1Gbit/sec if stationary relative to the base station.

Current "4G" speeds by the carriers though is nowhere near this. It is, however, higher than what we are used to as 3G speeds for the last few years. I guess saying you had 3.1G would do no good because your competitor would just claim 3.2G and eventually everyone would be up around 3.9999G and, well, you might as well round to 4G, which they did.

AT&T is the latest to join the farce with its HSPA+ technology. Last year T-Mobile called their HSPA+ network 4G and AT&T gave T-Moble grief over it. Less than a year later, AT&T is on the HSPA+ 4G bandwagon.

What happens when LTE comes out on these networks? There is nothing to stop these guys from claiming it is 5G, even though it technically isn't even 4G.

The numbers become meaningless. For the consumer to make any intelligent decision on how fast the network is, they will have to understand the underlying technology. I suspect cellular networks, like the processor before them, will lose the numbers and just go with branding for their networks. At some point, when you can fill the storage on your phone in a matter of minutes by downloading something faster and faster speeds won't matter as much as quality, and terms like 4G say nothing of quality, at least not the way it is being used today.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 18, 2014
Enterprise social network success starts and ends with integration. Here's how to finally make collaboration click.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
The weekly wrap-up of the top stories from InformationWeek.com this week.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.