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Summary:

Sure, consumers don’t care what constitutes real 4G, but for those diehards who believe real 4G has to deliver 1 Gbps down and 100 Mbps while mobile then rejoice, because the standard for LTE-Advanced could soon be set and be network-ready by the end of 2013.

ITU Headquarters in Geneva

ITU Headquarters in Geneva

Sure, consumers don’t care what constitutes real 4G, and since it backtracked on its ambitious standards, the International Telecommunications Union is apparently fine with calling the current crop of LTE, WiMAX and HSPA+ technologies 4G (which is good, because marketers were already doing so), but for those diehards who believe real 4G has to deliver 1 Gbps down and 100 Mbps up while mobile then rejoice, because the standard for LTE-Advanced could soon be set.

The GSMA’s Mobile Business Briefing publication noted today that the Release 10 version of the LTE standard known as LTE-Advanced, should be set in March or possibly September of this year. LTE-Advanced will deliver faster wireless, require more spectrum blocks and implement self-organizing networks. That’s all well and good, but the key element here is that if all this happens, the original 4G wireless networks of today could need an upgrade as soon as the end of 2013. That’s right about the time when Verizon will have rolled out its current LTE network over most of the U.S. Nice.

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  1. Thanks for drawing attention to the confusion over what constitutes 4G. Just for the sake of clarification, I believe the “original 4G networks of today” that you refer to are not 4G at all, but rather, either WirelessMAN Advanced or LTE Advanced.

    As you observe, the ITU’s 4G standards rollback of 12/6/10 is partly to blame for allowing purveyors of these interim versions to call their services “4G.” In addition, when carriers like Verizon run ad campaigns on 4G in tandem with launching their iPhone, people will naturally assume (as I’m sure Verizon’s marketing department intended) that the two are linked. They’re not. Most smart phone traffic, including Verizon’s and other carriers’, runs on 3G and will continue to do so for some time. Given mobile operators’ heavy investment in spectrum and infrastructure (including the mad rush to boost cell site and backhaul capacity following 2009’s network smart phone-driven outages), many speculate they have yet to make their first nickel on 3G. Even though 4G’s flat architecture promises reduced costs and greater efficiencies, it, too, will require $billions more in capex.

    So don’t hold your breath on pervasive 4G networks. Service providers first need to step up from “network optimization” mode and figure out how to monetize the network. A bit more detail here: http://crawfordpr.com/2011/01/12/telecom-pr-just-what-is-4g-anyway/

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  2. It’s true: consumers don’t care what constitutes or is the ITU’s technical definition of 4g–but they sure as hell care when their device doesn’t do everything promised in the commercials. I don’t care what kind of paper a diploma is printed on either.

    Luckily the telecoms, as some of the biggest lobbies in the entire world, will no doubt pull the strings of their D.C. marionettes and we’ll see a “national broadband plan” that will give all sorts of tax breaks, incentives and rights to carriers willing to build out 4g networks, minimizing their capex.

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