The generation game is much loved by marketers. Pepsi, the drink of the next generation. Star Trek:TNG. 3G phones. Ah yes, the phones. I don't remember anyone calling GSM phones 2G, although they were: 3G makes sense, and by the time it turned up mobile phones were big enough to get that sort of marketing attention.
One day there will be 4G, but so far nobody knows what it is. We can guess — greater than 100Mbps, very high per-cell user density through MIMO smart antennas, mesh/grid auto-configuration, multiple levels of service hand-over, first mobile phones using the standard the size of a brick and lasting three minutes. It'll happen, but not until 2010, give or take. If ever there was an industry consensus, that's it.
So here's T-Mobile saying it's launched a 4G service in the Czech Republic. My first reaction was "No it hasn't", and no, it hasn't. Looking through the press release, we find that the service name is "Internet 4G", which is a bit like Hedgehog Flavoured Crisps — a brand that does not accurately reflect what lies within. What lies within? UMTS-TDD, that's what, which is a 3G standard for pretty dull broadband wireless data networks.
We've already got one of these networks in the UK, run by One: you get up to a megabit per second to a box you plug into your computer. It's not a mobile phone service — it doesn't even do voice, although you can run VoIP over it. There are no UMTS-TDD handsets, there are only big fat old modems.
So I fire a note off to the woman who is "PR Counsel for IPWireless" — the company behind UMTS-TDD — and asked how a 3G service could be described as 4G. Here, verbatim, is her answer:
"T-Mobile chose to market UMTS TDD – yes, a 3GPP standard – as 4G to emphasize to its customers the dramatically higher speeds, as well as the services enabled by such speeds, such as streaming video, online gaming, etc. Others, largely media – not operators, choose to classify UMTS TDD as "4G" simply to imply that it is part of the next generation of wireless technologies that enable truly mobile broadband. It is not meant to be a technical term, and as far as we know, there is no group, standards or otherwise, that uses 4G in that sense."
With the exception of certain media who have reported the press release verbatim (you know who you are), has anyone seen UMTS-TDD described as "4G" by anyone?
Didn't they do well…