Is 4G More Cotton Candy Than Roast Beef?

Do you know how old 4G technology is? Four years, give or take a couple of months. In August 2006, Samsung unveiled its 4G technological breakthrough on a bus travelling at 60km per hour. The idea was to prove that it could download vast amounts of information extremely quickly all while users are on the move. At the time Samsung stated that it hoped to drive the development and standardisation of 4G mobile technology, but admitted that it would probably only be widely available on mobile devices in 2010.
Well, 2010 has come and gone and 4G is still not as widely used as Samsung probably hoped. There are several reasons for this, perhaps the most important of which is that technically speaking, there aren’t any proper 4G phones out there. Not that this has stopped marketers from splashing 4G all over product campaigns and milking the new, barely understood, term for all it’s worth. According to Nielsen (cited by ), until recently no carriers were able to meet the 4G standards set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). But instead of simply boasting of improved speeds and greater service, US carriers went after the 4G label and pressurised ITU into revising the definition so that now 4G simply means “a meaningful improvement over 3G”.
Now any WiMAX, LTE or HSPA+ phone is considered 4G, at least in the US of A.
But the competition hasn’t stopped there. At the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, AT&T touted its 4G HSPA+ network as the best even though it’s not the fastest (this honour goes to Verizon’s LTE Sophisticated Technology Synonym network). Speed isn’t everything, according to AT&T, which claims to have the best transition path to its network. So it seems spin doctors are winning the 4G media war and consumers are left floundering in confusion.
T-Mobile is considered one of the leaders in 4G products with its range of 4G smartphones and tablet devices, but according to PC World it doesn’t meet the standards set by IEEE, a professional association dedicated to technological innovation and excellence. Unfortunately for T-Mobile, some reviewers have also found its service to be inconsistent, with data speeds occasionally dipping way below what users should be able to expect.
In June of last year, Matt Carter, president of Sprint Nextel Corp’s 4G division, freely admitted that 4G isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “View it as the difference between Tools To Engage Students watching regular TV and high-definition TV. Once you’ve experienced high-definition TV it’s hard to go back to standard TV. It’s the same sort of thing here,” he said.
So technophiles might get a lot of joy out of 4G and early adopters will fight for the bragging rights, but for the man on the street the technology is less bang more fizz. However, it’s not to be underestimated and, as with all things these days, time will bring about rapid and astounding improvements.
Bill Davidson, senior vice president of marketing and investor relations at wireless technology development company Qualcomm Inc, probably summed up the situation best when he said, “It’s [4G] an important thing for the industry. It’s absolutely needed…. But I just think some of this has gotten a bit ahead of itself in terms of expectations for consumers.”

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