The wireless business is fueled by a combination of tech-wizardry and snake oil. Don’t believe it? Look at the dust clouds rising from T-Mobile USA’s decision to start advertising itself as “America’s largest 4G network,” despite the fact that the industry doesn’t consider the company’s mobile broadband technology fourth generation. So far, the industry has affixed the “4G” label to systems using WiMAX technology, currently being used by Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR)/Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) in more than 60 U.S. markets -- including Denver -- and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology, which will fuel coming services by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. and already is being used by MetroPCS in a handful of markets.
They’re considered 4G because they provide mobile download speeds far superior to those of current, third-generation networks. For example, Clearwire/Sprint advertise an average speed of 3 to 6 megabits a second, and Verizon expects an average speed of 5 to 12 megabits a second.
T-Mobile’s network uses HSPA+ technology, which technically is an extension of the current 3G network but provides an average download speed of 5 megabits a second. It also offers HSPA+ in 75 markets.
“When consumers look at 4G ... if you ask nine of 10, they’ll say it’s about the speed,” T-Mobile spokesman Reid Walker told The Associated Press.