4G: Just a Marketing Term?

4:20 PM Operators can't seem to live without 4G as a marketing hook but don't seem to know how to effectively sell faster data services

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

March 21, 2012

3 Min Read
4G: Just a Marketing Term?

4:20 PM -- Offering "4G" has become a marketing necessity for U.S. operators, as LR Mobile readers have pointed out in discussing what fourth-generation wireless actually is. (See What We Mean When We Say '4G'.)

What is striking -- when you look at how each of the big carriers sell 4G -- is how little difference there is between the marketing: None of the big players seems to know how to differentiate their newest service from rival offerings, as you can see below:

Table 1: 4G : U.S. Carrier Marketing


Marketing Tagline


"The nation's largest 4G network."


"America's fastest 4G network."


"America's favorite 4G network."

T-Mobile USA

"America's largest 4G network now faster than ever."


"Blazing fast 4G LTE."

Even digging into the operator blurbs a little doesn't present much of a clearer picture for the average consumer. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) markets its 4G LTE as "up to 10x faster than 3G" but didn't have any kind of average download speeds for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) service when I asked. Even if the average consumer happens to know how fast 3G is, the operator is further muddying the next-generation waters by marketing high-speed packet access-plus (HSPA+) as a "4G" service, when it used to be considered a fast 3G service.

AT&T is hardly alone. T-Mobile US Inc. also markets its HSPA+ network as a fourth-generation service. At least its latest TV ads explain that the user can stream TV faster and "watch cartoons" on their latest devices, offering some idea of why you should even care about the new service. (Let's not even get into their use of "unlimited" to describe speed-throttled plans right now.)

If anyone can explain what some of the Verizon Wireless 's 4G LTE Droid commercials are meant to convey to watchers who aren't a Transformers-obsessed 13-year-old boy I'd love to know:

MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) manages to be a little different from the rest with their "blazing fast" tag-line for LTE. Ironically though, the MetroPCS LTE is slower than all of the rival offerings. Oh well, at least it is relatively cheap.

I think that rather than offering vague metrics, the operators might be better off getting a bit specific. Say, for example, how long it takes -- on average -- to download a song or a movie and how long it takes to upload photos to social media sites. I doubt that will happen though.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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