In a recent InStat survey of 1,208 respondents, 75% of those polled say that 4G is an important feature when considering their next smartphone, but those same respondents also do not truly understand what 4G really is. The idea of 4G has been blundered by the marketing departments of various U.S. carriers that the definition of 4G is now elusive.
The original definition of 4G, as defined by the governing body known as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is any network that can achieve minimum speeds of 100 Mbps and top out at 1 Gbps. However, various U.S. carriers have defined 4G speeds as anything that exceeds standard 3G speeds, with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon each calling their HSPA+, WiMax, or LTE networks 4G though all networks achieve speeds far less than the minimum 100 Mbps speeds.
Those carriers have chosen to re-define their speed claims. Verizon says its LTE network can achieve 5-15 Mbps in real-time usage while Sprint claims speeds are up to 10 times faster than 3G speeds. More elusive are T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s speed claims where the two HSPA+ network defines their speeds by theoretical maximums–T-Mobile claims up to 42 Mbps while AT&T is now rolling out new devices with 21 Mbps maximum theoretical speeds–but real life usage will yield results that are not even close to the maximum speeds.
Perhaps, it is conflicting marketing that is causing customer confusion as the In-Stat survey notes, “When survey respondents were asked which carrier offered the fastest 4G speeds, the majority of the respondents either didn’t know or felt they were the same across carriers.”
Additionally, there may also be further confusing with phones with the number 4 in their names, such as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, which have been mistakenly referred to by uninformed customers as the ‘iPhone 4G.’
With all the conflicting marketing, the ITU had subsequently revised 4G speeds to include networks that achieve speeds faster than 3G speeds to avoid confusing consumers.
For its part, Sprint has most recently announced that it will be making the network upgrade to transition from WiMax to the next-generation LTE-Advanced network, which can provide speeds up to 100 Mbps in theoretical tests. Verizon Wireless has also hinted of an LTE-Advanced network after LTE roll out is completed, while AT&T is beginning to deploy basic LTE in select markets.