The last time I wrote about the possibility of T-Mobile branding their new HSPA+ network as 4G, one of their PR reps quickly called me up so they could correct me and clarify they would not use “4G” in their marketing. Eight months later, it looks like T-Mobile has changed their mind.
If you want to get really technical, the ITU Radiocommunication Sector defines 4G as an advanced cellular system that “must have target peak data rates of up to approximately 100 Mbps for high mobility such as mobile access”.
Here in the United States, the 4G term is really just marketing speak and it gets tossed around pretty easily. Sprint has branded their WiMAX network as 4G and we already know Verizon will refer to their 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) network as 4G too.
Again if you want to get really technical the geeks out there would refer to these two types of networks as pre-4G technology, but that hasn’t stopped the carriers from adopting the 4G term for their new networks.
Basically here in the U.S., the carriers are using 4G to refer to any type of network that offers faster speeds than their existing 3G networks.
So if Sprint is going to advertise their 10 Mbps WiMAX network as the First and Only Wireless 4G then what is to stop T-Mobile from doing the same with their 21 Mbps HSPA+ network?
Sprint will only cover 120 million people this year with WiMAX, but T-Mobile will offer 4G speeds to 200 million by the end of the year and that is why you see leaked company documents already using the phrase “America’s largest 4G network”.
Starting next month I believe T-Mobile will launch a massive campaign to advertise their new myTouch 4G on “America’s largest 4G network”. This is the fabled Project Emerald strategy (4G phone + network) that we have been talking about for months. All the signs are already there. Go browse T-Mobile’s site and you will already see the 4G term being used pretty frequently.
The only thing T-Mobile has to do is replace “HSPA+” with “4G” and they are ready to go. The average consumer doesn’t have a clue what HSPA+ means, but everyone knows “4G” must be better than “3G” because it’s a higher number, right?
Going forward it looks like T-Mobile will milk HSPA+ for all it’s worth because it was already announced they will double the speeds to 42 Mbps next year. After that look for T-Mobile to become a major investor in Clearwire (or just buy their spectrum) as they migrate their network to LTE in 2012 and beyond.
Someone tell me I’m wrong.