There has been much debate about the use of the term “4G” or 4th generartion wireless. The International Telecommunications Union, part of the United Nations, had declared 4G to only be “LTE Advanced” and “Wimax 2”. Both of these technologies see download speeds of 100 mbps mobile and 1ghz per second fixed. Those two were the only technologies, under the ITU definiton that were considered true 4G.
Sprint thought nothing of using the words “4G’ to describe their wimax technology as they felt it was their 4th generation. In fact they began using the 4G term last year around this time when prepping the debut of a mifi device called “Overdrive” and a usb stick. Sprint and their partner Clearwire (for which they own 51%) have been working on the Wimax network since 2008. Clearwire has been working on WiMax since 2005.
Verizon rolled out their first LTE cities on Deember 5th. In response to a caller on their LTE rollout call, Verizon’s Jeffrey Yorke said he didn’t care if they called it “chicken soup” it was faster. Indeed it was faster but it was not what the ITU considered 4G.
More after the jump
T-Mobile struggled at first with whether to use the term “4G” or not in regards to their HSPA+ network, however after seeing Verizon and Sprint throw the term around and getting an endorsement from the Yankee Group, they went full throttle and began using their branding “America’s Largest 4G Network.
Now in an about face the ITU has redefined both “LTE Advanced” and “Wimax 2” as IMT-Advanced and said this about the current 4G debate:
IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.
So with that change to the definition Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are free to use the term “4G” as much as they want. We purposely left AT&T out of this story as they do have HSPA+ equipment in place but have yet to activate it. AT&T is also presumed to be moving towards an LTE technology as well,just like Verizon.
NOTE: We had server problems overnight and originally ran this story as an exclusive on Friday at 9pm ET