What Is 4G? Senators Want To Know - InformationWeek

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12:25 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry

What Is 4G? Senators Want To Know

U.S. lawmakers want carriers to define 4G so consumers know what they are buying.

Somewhere between the rollout of 3G networks and what is now called 4G, the marketing department took over the name 4G. Networks employ a number of different technologies that are no doubt faster than the original 3G networks, but none of them come close to what a real 4G network would have.

Right now, 4G just means faster than 3G, and not much else. In order to ensure consumers have a better understanding of what they are buying in terms of phones and network service, in June Rep. Anna Eshoo introduced the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act, and has applauded a companion bill introduced in the Senate.

That bill, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, and Al Franken, would require carriers to spell out exactly what their 4G network will offer so consumers can make comparisons. As with the House bill, it would require carriers to disclose details in advertising, marketing materials, and at the point of sale. These details include:

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

If this bill passes and is signed into law, it should put an end to consumer confusion over what network has what. Right now, it is difficult to find out what network speeds are, and none of those speeds are guaranteed.

For example, as the iPhone 4S is launching, many sites claim AT&T is the only network that has a 4G iPhone 4S. AT&T in fact wants to put a 4G logo on the phone and is working with Apple right now to accomplish that. The phone may be the fastest of the 4S models in the United States, but that doesn't mean it is 4G. If AT&T were required to disclose its minimum guaranteed speed for the phone, consumers could compare it to the same phone on the Verizon and Sprint networks, as well as to the plethora of Android devices that sport the 4G moniker.

This bill shouldn't be too controversial, though I am sure carrier lobbyists will oppose it as much as possible. I am not a big fan of government legislation overall, but this falls under truth in advertising, which is needed. Consumers should have the information necessary to make an informed decision, not just a bunch of acronyms thrown around that can mean whatever the marketing team wants them to mean.

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/17/2011 | 4:34:41 PM
re: What Is 4G? Senators Want To Know
I agree. Good bill. For the government to get into setting standards would be unacceptable micro-management. For the gov't to mandate that carriers agree on definitions and inform users how well they are meeting them is nothing but reasonable. Too bad it's needed. Carriers should get the need for this themselves.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/16/2011 | 3:13:14 PM
re: What Is 4G? Senators Want To Know
In my opinion to get the next "G" a technology should have a significant increase in speed. As most 3G networks now run download speeds at approx. 1.5 MB, to have a 4G stamp it should be required to be 5MB/s or greater average download speed. That is about a 3x greater speed and would be significant. Also, upload speeds should be no less than 20% of the upload and as a result, should be 1 MB or greater.

Anything above these values is fine, anything less and it should have to still be called 3.5G
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