The Battle of FauxG

5:50 PM -- Are you sick of the fauxG marketing wars yet? Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), and T-Mobile US Inc. are now all claiming to offer "4G" networks in cities; Verizon Wireless will soon join their ranks. In reality, however, all these operators are offering fauxG services, since none of the networks meets the 4G standards laid down by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) . In fact, the ITU recently came out and said that it sees the next generation of tech specs due to be standardized -- LTE Advanced and 802.16m -- as true 4G technology. These are likely to be years off commercial deployment.

Yet operators, in the US at least, appear to have stepped up their 4G marketing efforts. In one sense, it doesn't matter so much; after all, LTE, WiMax and even HSPA+ all do offer better mobile broadband performance than previous 3G standards.

Nonetheless, I do think operators would do well to manage their potential customers' expectations. When operators initially started to market their 3G services earlier this decade, hardly anyone knew what the term meant so it didn't matter so much if the early hype didn't match the actual reality.

Now ride around on the NYC subway, wander down a Chicago street, or grab coffee at a San Francisco Starbucks and people are talking wireless. Thanks to the 3G revolution and the devices enabled by it, like the iPhone, people are buzzing about wireless and jazzed about the explosion of choice they have in devices and services.

So, even if the average person on the street doesn't exactly know what "4G" is, at a technical level, they are much more au fait with the idea that this is the next phase in the mobile revolution, and many of them are excited by the idea of applications like video chat and streaming TV on their phones.

Overselling mobile broadband services as "4G" services is a quick way to make people sour on the whole concept. I think operators would be much better off giving us average performance times for applications and services we actually use rather than getting in a slap fight about "4G."

For instance, how about:

  • Average time it takes to load Facebook and upload photos.
  • How quickly a streaming video on YouTube takes to load up.
  • How fast you can send an email or photo from the device.
  • How speedily it can render popular Websites (pick your faves).
  • How fast a video chat connection can be established.

I'm sure you can think of other metrics that fit. I think these would give you a better concept of how the device actually performs on the network though, rather than some of the improbable maximum download speeds being bandied around.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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Rupert_Baines 12/5/2012 | 4:18:55 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

I agree with Phil Solis of ABI's point:


Generation has to refer to something significant, to a fundamental change of some form, not mere incrementalism. The change from analog to digital was 1G to 2G, from narrowband TDMA to wideband CDMA for 3G (*) - and the change to OFDMA and flat architecture (all IP) is significant and hence 4G.

So LTE & WiMAX are 4G.

Data-rate is an arbitrary and ultimately meaningless way to say "Generation". Indeed, the architectural difference between LTE and LTE-A is smaller than, say from GSM to GPRS or WCDMA to HSPA. So lets say LTE is 4G - and if you must, then LTE-A or 16m can be 4.5G.


(*) I know there is an ambiguity over 1x and I do appreciate Tim's link! But, as they say, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and as botanists have known for centuries, no taxonomy is ever perfect.



paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:18:58 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

I am not in finance.




timkridel 12/5/2012 | 4:18:59 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

"Didn't the same thing pretty much happen with 3G as well?"

Absolutely: www.slideshare.net/Dominque23/...

jggveth 12/5/2012 | 4:18:59 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

Let's make this a real message board and start commenting on the commenters rather than the articles. 

Mark will all Telecom Pragmatics research now be published in byte size bits on these boards? 

Brookseven do you work in finance?  Did you recently change firms?  I think I may know who you are but I'm not certain. 

That's all for now. 

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:18:59 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

Thanks, Tim. I knew there is an authoritative source for this. A lie -- or a misstatement -- repeated often and forcefully enough can appear to become the truth. It works in all forms of marketing, including the political. In the case of 4G, even incremental progress will be enough to validate the label.

spc_markl 12/5/2012 | 4:18:59 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

Thanks for your concern, but we hardly give away the store.


edgehead 12/5/2012 | 4:19:00 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

I agree with mendyk. While the FauxG services do not meet the ITUs definition, I've seen WiMAX in action and it is a big step forward from 3G services. As for the true 4G, I can't get those speeds via wired broadband in my SF neighborhood. I'm not holding my breath for that kind of wireless bandwidth.

somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 4:19:01 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG

I believe Verizon has significant OSP is some cities' metro areas other than FIOS cities from its WorldCom purchase.  I do not remember all the cities with ethernet services over RPR from about 10 years ago, but there were a few outside of the Northeast footprint. Then there was Brooks, Williams, ICI, MFS etc. -some of those may not have had OSP, but I know a few did.

While it may have not been seen as feasible extend that to evey household in another RBOCs footprint, it may be very feasible to extend it to cell sites that may not already be using it.   I remember WCOM (well an OSP contractor of course) using quite a bit of dynamite in attempts to get fiber to some mountain broadcast site years ago.

This conversation reminds me of the WorldCom/UUNET "Colo NFL Network" project and the great mysterious ITSN project at Bell Atlantic North and South (right after Bell Atlantic bought NYNEX).

spc_markl 12/5/2012 | 4:19:02 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG


There is no lack of depth.  Verizon has told us to pretty much follow the FiOS map.  I used the word, "tend."

But there is something you can help me out with.  I am being totally serious. Please hold most of the other market research firms to the same high standards despite the fact that all they do is regurgitate supplier propaganda, have their reports vetted by these vendors in advance of publication, and are willing extensions of the PR departments of the manufacturers.  By definition, especially because they do not gather customer intelligence, their information can be as high as 50% incorrect.

When I first got into the business, I would sell to the VPs of marketing.  Now I deal a lot more with analyst relations individuals, who are very nice people, but really are only concerned that you do not say anything bad about their companies.

I am often embarrassed to be associated with a lot of my so-called competitors.  I actually want good competition because hopefully the bulk of the consulting industry can go back to something that at least resembles objectivity and honesty -- and not just being cheerleaders.



paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:19:03 PM
re: The Battle of FauxG


Note Mark, 

I used basically NFL cities which you categorically stated in your previous post would NOT get 4G because they were not FiOS.  Given the poor quality of your thought, I am simply pointing out the lack of depth of your research.


LA does NOT have FiOS - Orange County does.  Please also learn geography.  Plano is not Dallas.



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