The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect


The mess that is so-called 4G mobile broadband

My mobile Interneting has been speeding up over the years, from basic first-generation services that could barely download email to a spiffy-in-its-time Sony Ericsson T616 that supported 2G "broadband" to, eventually, third generation or 3G phones like the iPhone 3GS. I had the original Verizon mifi mobile wifi hotspot with 3G and suddenly everything was sped up.

Now comes the next supposed download acceleration under the guise of fourth generation, or 4G, mobile broadband service.

Turns out, it's kind of a crock. Or at least a mixed bag of okay and a crock.

AT&T has rapidly become the worst offender. Late with plans for a fourth generation network, AT&T seems to have taken to calling its 3G service "4G" just because it can. Sascha Segan has a good article over on PC Magazine's site calling the carrier out on this trickery.

AT&T is lying about 4G. Shamelessly. The company's two "4G" phones and its "4G" modem don't deliver 4G even by AT&T's own wishy-washy standards. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as the 4G police, and AT&T is going to get away with debasing the term and confusing consumers to everyone's disadvantage.

-PC Mag, March 14, 2011

And after AT&T opened the door, T-Mobile seems to be opting for a similar move, marketing its slightly faster 3G as suddenly 4G. I don't know if the Spring/Clear Wireless 4G service, based on a technology called Wimax, technically meets the definition of 4G either, but it has gotten progressively slower and slower here in the Boston area. Verizon, slowly rolling out its 4G service based on LTE technology, may be the only player with "real" 4G speed. But there's precious few phones and no mobile hotspots for the Verizon LTE service. They're expected RSN ("real soon now").

Some of the blame no doubt should be placed on the global standards-setting body, the International Telecommunications Union, which caved to industry pressure and muddled a once honest definition of "4G." Instead of a great leap forward, it's turning out in many places to be rebranded 3G. And that's too bad.

Posted by Aaron Pressman

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