4G Wireless Bill Asks Carriers To Prove Speed - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

12:06 AM

4G Wireless Bill Asks Carriers To Prove Speed

Vendors throw around the term 4G around in the same way that some snack companies abused "low fat." One lawmaker wants the carriers to clearly spell out what 4G means.

When people had a 2G or 3G phone, they had a pretty good idea of how it would perform online, as most 2G and 3G services were comparable between different carriers. Now, however, 4G has come to mean just about anything the carrier wants it to. The marketing department has taken over the responsibility of using technical terms to describe the network's performance.

The truth is, none of the networks have towers or phones that qualify for 4G, and carriers and manufacturers know it. Per the 4G spec, speeds should approach 100-Mbit/second, well above anything offered today. A few years ago, Hitachi referred to its LTE implementation as 3.9G. You can be sure, though, that no carrier will advertise their service as 3.9G. Full version updates sound much better than a point version. RIM just did this with the BlackBerry 7 name, which should have been 6.x.

The problem with 4G being advertised, aside from not being 4G at all, of course, is that the term means so many different things. Congresswoman Anna Eschoo just introduced a bill called the "Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act." Its intention is to make consumers more informed before committing to a multi-year plan by requiring the carrier to spell out exactly what they are selling. The bill has a number of requirements beyond the obvious speed claims:

-- Guaranteed minimum data speed;
-- Network reliability;
-- Coverage area maps;
-- Pricing;
-- Technology used to provide 4G service;
-- Network conditions that can impact the speed of applications and services used on the network.

These would have to be disclosed at the time of sale and be included in the billing materials. It should make it easier for people to compare carriers and see which is the best deal, though some of that information is bound to confuse. How many consumers would care about the technology used for the 4G service? Not many.

Network reliability though is interesting. Had this bill been enacted in 2007 for 3G networks, AT&T would have had a serious problem. Presumably if the carrier fails to live up to its claims, at a minimum the Federal Trade Commission or Federal Communications Commission could levy fines. Worst case, it would be a violation of the contract and consumers would walk away with no early termination fee. I think the final requirement listed is an out, though: "Too many people downloading too much" would be a permissible network condition that can impact the speed of apps and services on the network.

The full text of the bill can be found here. It doesn't have a number assigned to it yet though, so it is very early in the process. I'll be curious to see how this moves through the House of Representatives. Do you think this kind of legislation is necessary or should market forces prevail?

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
IT Careers: 10 Industries with Job Openings Right Now
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  5/27/2020
How 5G Rollout May Benefit Businesses More than Consumers
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  5/21/2020
IT Leadership in Education: Getting Online School Right
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/20/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
Download this report from InformationWeek, in partnership with Dark Reading, to learn more about how today's IT operations teams work with cybersecurity operations, what technologies they are using, and how they communicate and share responsibility--or create risk by failing to do so. Get it now!
Current Issue
Key to Cloud Success: The Right Management
This IT Trend highlights some of the steps IT teams can take to keep their cloud environments running in a safe, efficient manner.
Flash Poll