4G Wireless in America: Where We Are, Where We're Headed

Since the wireless industry can't yet agree on a single definition for the term "4G," it should be no surprise that the 4G World show in Chicago this week saw top service providers deliver mixed messages about what consumers might be able to expect from the "fourth generation" of cellular services over the next year. But one thing is clear: We're a lot closer to enjoying the faster speeds of the new networks than we were a year ago, and the advance of the technology is picking up speed.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Standing in front of a presentation slide titled "HSPA+ delivers a 4G experience," which showed the technology able to move toward multimegabit speed rates in the near future, T-Mobile senior director of engineering Mark McDiarmid said that end users should be the judge and jury on what is 4G and what is not. Currently, T-Mobile is somewhat foggy on what kind of speeds its HSPA+ network will deliver, advertising "theoretical peak download speeds" of 21 mbps that probably aren't seen in the real world. Although some reviewers have tested the T-Mobile gear (such as its new HSPA+ smartphone, the G2 Android device) at speeds rivaling or besting those on the Sprint/Clearwire network, the fact that T-Mobile has issued no official statement on the expected throughput speeds of the HSPA+ network raises questions about its true capacity and reliability.

"Ultimately, consumers will decide if what we're offering is a good value or not," said McDiarmid in a short interview after a panel discussion. Though McDiarmid and T-Mobile see LTE in the future, "there's too much opportunity in HSPA+ that can be exploited and taken to market" to move to LTE right now, he said. T-Mobile, he noted, will have HSPA+ networks in 100 major metro areas by the end of 2010, up from the 65 markets where it is available now.

As for new devices coming to the network, McDiarmid predicted that "in the next 5 years you're going to see a pull toward more low-end smartphones," and said that HSPA+ would be a better base technology for such devices since it could support them at a much lower price point than similar devices using WiMax or LTE.

This story, "4G Wireless in America: Where We Are, Where We're Headed" was originally published by PCWorld.

Related:

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
Survey says! Share your insights in our 19th annual State of the CIO study