Thursday, March 24, 2011


Both my readers may have noticed that I hold particular disdain for dishonesty. I loathe fake antivirus providers, scam websites and spammers trying to sell crap to gullible people. One of the biggest acts of dishonesty going on in the techy world today is “4G.” “4G” is short for “forth generation” wireless technology that promises a significant speed boost for smart phones and those of you currently using 3G wireless adapters for rural home internet access. 4G promises to be from 10 to 100 times faster than the current 3G. But 4G is more than speed; the underlying technologies also enable other data/voice capabilities such as live high definition TV. My problem with carriers claiming to offer 4G is that there is not a single carrier on our continent that actually has a 4G network.

An organization called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defined the specifications for 4G networks. Tops on the list of requirements for 4G to be called “4G” is that the technology must offer download speeds of 100Mbps (megabits per second). Independent tests of all American 3G carriers show that typical download speeds for the 4 major carriers is between 1 and 1.7Mbps. I typically get between 0.5Mbps to a little over 1Mbps on my 3G Droid X here in Florence. That is good enough for typical web surfing and email but it is quite slow compared to a “normal” home internet speed of 3 to 12Mbps or more. That is a far, far cry from the 100Mbps set for 4G.

So the ITU set the lofty standards for 4G but the carriers needed to rebrand their stuff in order to appear to out-do the competition. They lobbied the ITU to allow carriers to “legally” use the 4G name but only if they promised that they were in the process of implementing technology that would eventually result in 4G. The carriers took that inch and added a mile by deciding to call any improvement in speed “4G.” The term 4G is so watered down now that when it does actually arrive in a few years, no one will give a hoot so a new term will have to be coined.
Furthermore, almost nobody in the US even has the newer technology that carriers are calling 4G. To date, Verizon has rolled out a slightly-faster 3G service to 36 major cities but of course that does not include us here in the Shoals. AT&T barely has 3G coverage here. T-Mobile (soon to merge with AT&T) does claim to have their version of 4G here in the Shoals. But make no mistake, none of them are actually offering “true” 4G.

So don’t be fooled by the claims. NOBODY is offering 4G yet and ALL of the carriers are misrepresenting themselves. So if you are in the market for one of those fancy new “4G” phones, ignore the 4G “feature.” It is worthless. By the time “real” 4G rolls around here in a few years, you’ll need a new phone to use it.

1 comment:

William.Russom said...

The sad part is that T-Mobile is one of the smallest carriers in the nation, but they have the fastest speeds available in very limited locations. They have enabled up to 42mbps in a few cities but in small town USA it doesn't matter because we don't have it anyway. The "4g" in Florence is around 14-21mbps, or at least that is their claim. I too am, and have been, upset with the corporate lies that are allowed due to advertising. The common consumer doesn't know the actual difference, it's just supposed to be faster now. I'm an AT&T user and I can't decide if I like Verizon's plan for 4g better or not. Verizon is rolling out LTE now and AT&T is focusing on HSPA+, like T-Mobile, but will shift its focus to LTE "by the end of the year." It's exciting if you're interested in the technology itself but disconcerting if you're not a common consumer.