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ITU Softens On the Definition of 4G Mobile

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the noun-is-the-name-of-a-thing dept.

Networking 45

alphadogg writes "After setting off a marketing free-for-all by effectively declaring that only future versions of LTE and WiMax will be 4G, the International Telecommunication Union appears to have opened its doors and let the party come inside. In October, the global standards group declared that after long study, it had determined which technologies truly qualified for its IMT-Advanced label, sometimes called 4G (fourth-generation). Only two systems made the list: LTE-Advanced, an emerging version of Long-Term Evolution technology, and WirelessMAN-Advanced, the next version of WiMax, also called WiMax 2. Neither is commercially available yet. Stripping the official 4G title from current LTE and WiMax, which both had claimed it, was the perfect foil for T-Mobile USA to wholeheartedly advertise its HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access) network as 4G. But in a recent press release about the opening of the ITU World Radiocommunication Seminar 2010, the august United Nations-affiliated agency appears to have caved in."

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Can someone summarize the summary? (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595174)

It seems self-contradictory. I'm not even sure if I want to read the article.

I'll have a go at it... (5, Insightful)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595254)

Technological innovation in the mobile space has been swept aside by marketting innovation.

Re:I'll have a go at it... (2)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595368)

It is now defined as: "4G = Whatever the major US carriers are selling today"

Re:I'll have a go at it... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34597270)

Feeling the same way here. My guess is this isn't so much a 'softening' of the definition, as some director at ITU throwing up his hands and yelling "Fine! They want to call it 4G, they can call it 4G! If anyone's looking for me, I'll be in the 4G bathroom, taking a 4G shit from all the 4G burritos I had at lunch."

Re:I'll have a go at it... (2)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595694)

I have a brilliant idea. Let's just measure wireless internet speed the same way we do consumer broadband -- by the actual speed of the service, rather then using all these "-G" codes. Honestly, "2.75G"? Talk about splitting hairs!

Re:I'll have a go at it... (3, Insightful)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595768)

But then they'd have to admit that 4G and 3G are sometimes exactly the same.

Re:I'll have a go at it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34597734)

They're not. They use very different technologies.

Re:I'll have a go at it... (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602866)

But then they'd have to admit that 4G and 3G are sometimes exactly the same.

http://gizmodo.com/5704797/verizon-lte-speed-test-insanely-fast [gizmodo.com]

I would be happy with 7-10mbps (the slow results). My 3G tends to be around .5-2mbps. Verizon says you should expect about 14mbps from LTE. Since when are we scoffing at 5-20x increases in average performance?

We already do, really (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34598398)

First of all, the "-G" codes are quite notable. Transition from 1G to 2G (from analog to GSM) was a massive technological leap. Transition from 2G to 3G was also massive leap (effectively brought usable internet access to mobile devices). The transition from 3G to 4G is supposed to be something comparable to those two: Something that is a massive step forwards in terms of tehcnology and/or really does revolutionize the way we use mobile devices. That being the case, it's pretty simple and useful to look at the devices in terms of what "-G" tier they are... Of course, this assumes that things can't be labeled nG too easily, that there really is some massive (ie: Not just notable. Double or triple the speeds? Notable but nothing revolutionary.) difference between 3G and 4G. It seems that won't be the case anymore...

That said, I find your statement about the actual speeds of broadbands to be amusing. When it comes to broadbands, we use terms like "unlimited", "speed is [theoretical maxium speed]", etc... We already use those same terms with mobile devices but they're even less useful in that realm as the enviromental variables are greater.

Re:I'll have a go at it... (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 3 years ago | (#34598598)

And while that slows things down in America the rest of the world will just quietly carry on rolling out next-generation infrastructure such as this [tele2.se] . It's available now, my Swedish isn't good enough to spot what kind of technology it is but 80Mb wireless broadband sounds pretty 4G to me.

Re:I'll have a go at it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34598858)

It's LTE, so not true 4G according to ITU.

Bullshit (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602546)

Explain to me how exactly LTE and Wimax don't count as technological improvements over UMTS and EVDO? They are both a switch over to a pure IP based network rather than tunneling it through GPRS. They both offer better speeds than 3G technologies. And they are a much bigger step forward than the switch from LTE to LTE Advanced or WiMax to WiMax 2 will be. This move by ITU just recognizes reality and chooses to draw the line between 3G and 4G to match where the fundamental tech changes are actually occurring rather than just when the speed increases past an arbitrary limit.

Re:I'll have a go at it... (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34602840)

I call bullshit on your call of bullshit. 3G delivers about .5-2 mbps. HSPA+ is up to 50mbps realistically delivering about 15-20mbps. LTE is 100+mbps. WiMax is 100+mbps. The idea that we should be calling something which usually delivers less than 1mbps the same as something which delivers a 10-100x increase in performance is retarded engineer stupidity. They screwed up pure and simple. When else in the history of technology have we waited for a 100-200x increase in performance before admitting to it being a new generation of said technology?

If you break 20mbps in my books you can call it 4G. If you need a new name for something which delivers a *gigabit* of down speed wirelessly over hundreds of meters then call it 5G.

I'm all for holding marketing BS accountable. "Now with superG!" but this is a case where the boffins took their turn in losing their touch with reality.

Re:I'll have a go at it... (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609504)

Technological innovation in the mobile space has been swept aside by marketting innovation.

Precisely. The focus is on the label applied to the technology, rather than on the capabilities of the technology itself.

Re:Can someone summarize the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34595302)

The term "4G" is and has always been absolutely and totally devoid of meaning. You can call anything 4G, including tin cans and string.

Re:Can someone summarize the summary? (5, Informative)

SuperSlacker64 (1918650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595396)

Well, I just skimmed it, but it didn't make anything clearer. What I get from it and understand is this:

  • The ITU defines what 3G and 4G mean, and who can call their services by those names.
  • The ITU hadn't defined 4G officially, so LTE and WiMax called themselves 4G without official permission.
  • The ITU made a big long study on all this.
  • The ITU defined 4G, and neither LTE, WiMax, or any other existing '4G' network made the cut.
  • LTE-Advanced and WiMax 2 can be called 4G, but neither of them is in usage yet.
  • If you have a phone that says its 4G, it's lying.

Re:Can someone summarize the summary? (3, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34597664)

If you have a phone that says its 4G, it's lying.

But do you really? Think of it this way, most people don't have a clue what 3G is other than that service that lets me view facebook on my phone without waiting a day for the page to load. Most consumers assume 4G is the next iteration of the number, and take it to mean exclusively "the next thing after 3G that will be faster". If marketing companies claim WiMax is 4G, and it is faster who ultimately cares what the specific standards are.

I mean consumers will buy based on marketing, and sometimes based on the tech specs. If 4G according to the carriers meet a certain speed requirement, then who's the standards body to say that no we'll reserve 4G for something even faster after devices have already started shipping and advertising money has been spent. Ultimately the consumers who are buying their 4G device will get the latest and greatest faster technology and the fact that the definition changes doesn't make their phone suddenly slower.

I'm glad the ITU apparently caved, the tech world is confusing enough as it is without one term meaning many different things.

Re:Can someone summarize the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34601448)

I'm glad the ITU apparently caved, the tech world is confusing enough as it is without one term meaning many different things.

So instead of having a standards org define 4G your glad 4G means whatever the fuck the each individual cell phone carriers marketing department says it means?! Hell its not that unusual for the new 4G to be slower than the old 3G in the same damn spot. Here let me Google [lmgtfy.com] that for you. How is this logic, much less interesting? Can we have a +1 cognitive dissonance button?

Re:Can someone summarize the summary? (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 3 years ago | (#34598352)

No.. it says that if you had a phone that was called 4G it "was" lying until they relaxed the rules to where now they are not lying.. and then in the NetworkWorld article, they go on to comment that only the WiMax and current LTE should be 4G because they achieved the speed by using "Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing Access" where as HSPA+ achieved their speed (though magic ?) some other way.. and then grudgingly acknowledge that fast to the consumer is fast to the consumer.. so they guess it's ok, sorta... but HSPA+ will never be 4G to them, even though it is as much as the other 2 technologies in what matters to qualify for the new relaxed rules.

Re:Can someone summarize the summary? (1)

butlerm (3112) | more than 3 years ago | (#34600702)

The ITU defines what 3G and 4G mean, and who can call their services by those names.

No, they don't. The ITU defines what "IMT-Advanced" is. They do not define what "4G" means, nor do they have the tiniest smidgen of legal authority to regulate who can use "4G" to refer to their services.

Realistically speaking, the ITU program even to define what IMT-Advanced is a complete waste of time. It is not an actual technical or interoperability standard, just some sort of bureaucratic bragging right. Butterfly classification at best. The ITU appears just trying to justify its existence, by pretending to be a regulatory authority.

*sigh* Here's the only relevant sentence from TFA: (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34595398)

As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, 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 they're not relaxing the standard; EDGE is still 3G (per IMT-2000), and LTE is still not 4G (per IMT-Advanced), etc.; however, "it is recognized" that everyone calls EDGE 2.75g, and LTE/WiMax/HSPA+ 4g, and that standards are as usual irrelevant to marketing.

it's about time we got a better definition... (4, Funny)

burtosis (1124179) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595412)

Now if they would just redefine unemployed as employed we could fix the entire US economy in one fell swoop!

Re:it's about time we got a better definition... (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595460)

I think you just earn a degree in marketing for that.

Re:it's about time we got a better definition... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34596922)

Now if they would just redefine unemployed as employed we could fix the entire US economy in one fell swoop!

I think you mean FUNemployed! Amirite??

The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (4, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595562)

All this activity over the definition of 4G? It's kind of interesting, because it so clearly shows the standard marketing activity of taking a word that evokes a feeling in people, and connecting that with some product. Here, 4G apparently evokes the feeling of "best phone technology", and it's a mad scramble to have particular technologies labeled with the term, so that people will feel it's the best phone technology (why? because it says so!). What does the term actually mean? Apprently very little, beyond being a historical artifact of this silly activity.

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595754)

Why? Because 4 is higher than 3.

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (2)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 3 years ago | (#34595892)

For $2,000 I'll build you one that goes to 12.

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34596324)

Hell yeah man! 12 is clearly better than 4. The marketing guys said so!

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34597684)

Yes exclusively. Your little sister won't care about what 4G stands for as long as it lives up to her expectation of it being faster than 3G. This is exactly how it's being marketed. This is also why a lot of average consumers don't understand even in the slightest the difference between 802.11a/b/g/n and 802.15.4. If it has a bigger number, it must be better right?

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34598318)

Yeah. Who cares if the 802 stands for February 1980 anyway as long as its the latest and greatest eh?

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (2)

sponga (739683) | more than 3 years ago | (#34596588)

It basically means you get broadband speeds 14mbps, pretty simple I just a lot of people here are over analyzing it and all parroting the same message. Basically you don't want to have a dozen different names for a certain set of speed.

If you name your service a dozen different names, it does no one any good. Maybe Super-4G will probably be 20mbps but I think they are all in the general range there.

Get over it....

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34598028)

All this activity over the definition of 4G?...What does the term actually mean?

It basically means you get broadband speeds 14mbps

Interesting, considering my carrier states that the theoretical maximum on their network is 24mbps and they have a 3G network (UMTS). Oh, and it does go that fast in some areas too.

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#34598240)

You know, once upon a time, the G in 2G, 3G, and 4G meant "generation". As in 2nd generation technology, 3rd generation technology, etc. Why do we even care what generation technology a phone provider is using? Just require them to publish, or have the government conduct tests and publish, the average and peak down/upload speeds you get on their networks.

Re:The mobile tech formerly known as 4G (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34604084)

Yes, exactly. I wonder why the game console makers haven't capitalized on this. It's always just "next generation", in relation to the previous, which is a total "duhh". Hell, I prefer older generations of plenty of technology, since it works better (RoHS anyone?).

First Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34595700)

*Posted from my super fast 4G connection! *

Here comes 5G (2)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 3 years ago | (#34596394)

So when the carriers implement true 4G, the marketeers are sure to call it 5G.

Re:Here comes 5G (1)

zeroeth (1957660) | more than 3 years ago | (#34599862)

This is like the US vs Japanese, Final Fantasy games numbering scheme all over again.

Re:Here comes 5G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606758)

Exactly...
They also said this though...
"Following a detailed evaluation against stringent technical and operational criteria, ITU has determined that “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced. As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, 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. The detailed specifications of the IMT-Advanced technologies will be provided in a new ITU-R Recommendation expected in early 2012."

Which I think is saying 4G IS going to be either “LTE-Advanced” or “WirelessMAN-Advanced” BUT anything that is more advanced than 3G can be considered 4G..
Hence the Cave.

T-Mobile - The country's largest 4g Network (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 3 years ago | (#34596616)

T-Mobile - The country's largest 4g Network seriously this is their new advertising campaign. Pure shit. LTE Wimax, sure okay ill take it, but T-Mobile had this HDSPA+ crap for a while. They only choose 4G for marketing. They should be shot. Unfortunately only lawyers will win in this one

Re:T-Mobile - The country's largest 4g Network (1)

Zixaphir (845917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34598676)

And why should they be shot? HSPA+ may not be as fast as LTE Wimax, but it is clearly superior to 3G technologies that proceeded it. HDSPA was already called 3.5G or Turbo 3G, Edge was originally considered to be a 3G network built on 2G technologies, so I don't see what the deal is. It's just a stupid buzzword for a family of technologies that's easier for the average consumer to understand than LTE / Wimax.

Again, these are all buzzwords. They were created by marketing to be abused like this, usually by pulling shit like having two different networks released within the same time frame and then calling faster of the two the next "generation" of speed. When this doesn't work, you get shit like AT&T with the fastest network and Verizon with the biggest. WOOHOO!

biT3h (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34597360)

of *BSD assWipes lagged bEhind,

And you called me a troll... (1)

Evro (18923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34597396)

I assumed this would happen [slashdot.org] back in October and was modded troll. "That only happens in America!" Greed is universal.

PS, I'm shocked -- SHOCKED!

4G's a Jolly Good Fellow (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34601160)

...which nobody can deny is a marketing hoax perpetuated by HSPA+ carriers. Time for a single grand unified body of generation number definers.

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