What is 4G? It depends who you ask.
The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) defines 4G as International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced which is a cellular system that must have target peak data rates of up to approximately 100 Mbps for a high mobility connection and 1 Gbps for low mobility.
On the other hand, you have a carrier like Sprint which is marketing its WiMax network as “The first and only wireless 4G network from a national carrier”. Their WiMax network has a target peak of 10 Mbps, but real world tests place the speeds between 3-6 Mbps. It is still a heck of a lot faster than most 3G networks, so Sprint felt justified in calling it 4G.
So really, 4G is just a marketing term.
T-Mobile is set to launch their HSPA+ network nationwide by mid-2010. They currently use HSPA 7.2 and the upgrade to HSPA+ will be achieved by a software update to their network nodes and a massive backhaul upgrade.
The flavor of HSPA+ that T-Mobile is using features a theoretical max of 21 Mbps (and newer versions of HSPA+ can do 42 and 84 Mbps). Philadelphia is the test market for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ and early results show it can do 9 Mbps in real world tests.
Are you confused yet? T-Mobile’s new “3G” network is actually faster than Sprint’s 4G WiMax.
T-Mobile has sent out a few press releases to announce their HSPA+ upgrade, but they have yet to begin their marketing blitz.
“While other carriers talk about 4G plans and the promise of compatible devices, T-Mobile will speed ahead with HSPA+ deployments across the bulk of its 3G footprint this year, delivering 3-5 times the speeds of today’s 3G. And the best thing about the HSPA+ upgrade is that it’s backward compatible, so that T-Mobile 3G-enabled devices will be faster in 2010.”T-Mobile USA
We have openly wondered what name T-Mobile would assign to the HSPA+ network. Would they call it 3.5G or maybe 3G+ like some Canadian carriers with similar HSPA+ networks?
Believe it or not, it looks like T-Mobile will in fact use 4G when referring to its HSPA+ network. T-Mobile CTO Cole Brodman provided an update of their network plans at Mobile World Congress and he was actually billing HSPA+ as 4G technology.
Any why shouldn’t T-Mobile call it 4G? If their new network is going to be faster than Sprint’s 4G, they might as well jump on the bandwagon and use it too.
We reached out to T-Mobile to confirm the name they will use for HSPA+, but they did not respond in time for publication. If we hear back from them, we will update this story.
Update: We received a response from T-Mobile. They are not referring to HSPA+ as “4G” at this time. We are attempting to get a transcript from the Mobile World Congress event to see what Cole Brodman said and how he used the term 4G.
“In 2009, T-Mobile upgraded its 3G network to the faster, HSPA 7.2 standard and became the first carrier to launch HSPA+ with a deployment in Philadelphia. In the coming months, you will continue to see T-Mobile integrate HSPA+ into its 3G network with broad national deployment planned for this year.”T-Mobile USA
Either way, this is going to be a really interesting story later this year. T-Mobile should have the fastest mobile data network and it could be confusing with Sprint still using the term 4G to refer to its WiMax network.
What do you think T-Mobile should do?
[Image credit Inquisitr]