Thursday 17 February 2011

The Latest on 3G and 4G Terminology

This entry updates my previous entry concerning the impact of HSPA only sites. It addresses recent changes in the generation or G nomenclature, in particular the use of 4G, LTE and WiMAX.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations sponsored regulatory body for such things, held the World Radiocommunication Seminar 2010 (WRS-10) in Geneva, Switzerland the week of December 06, 2010.

One of the decisions was that the collective name for the next generation of wireless services will be called International Mobile Telecommunications - Advanced (IMT-Advanced) and have the two components “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced”

In a related announcement, it approved the use of the term 4G for LTE or WiMAX technologies and “other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation.”

This legitimized a practice the major US vendors started using a year ago as they increased their data speeds with HSPA and HSPA+ (LTE) or EV-DO Rec C (WiMAX) technology and started to identify the service as 4G in the their major advertising campaigns with a note in the fine print that it was using enhanced 3G equipment.

Canadian carriers continued to use the more traditional terms. This led to some amusing entries in technical forums and newspaper comment sections by officious sounding experts bemoaning the fact that Canada was stuck in 3G while the US was already using 4G. In reality, Canada was ahead on the US in deploying the advanced technology but adhering to the internationally approve terminology.

Once the ITU announced the new guidelines, the Canadian carriers jumped quickly onto the bandwagon. These two press releases by Telus, one in 2010 and one in 2011 illustrate the point. In 2010, the 42 Mbps download was called Dual carrier HSPA+. In 2011 Telus touted the same system as 4G. I would expect the other major cell vendors will be close behind. Barrett Xplornet is currently proclaiming their new wireless and satellite services as 4G.

Maybe the meant to be humourous Best Buy Super Bowl with Bieber and Osborne about a 6G phone may not be that far off after all.