How (not) to sell LTE … the wireless generation game revisited

After 3 G  (and “Turbo 3G”, 3.5G ;-) )  now we got 4G !   Who needs these generations and what do they actually mean ? 

The answer to the first questions is  “the Industry” that needs to sells us something new. They managed to sell 3-4 letter acronyms to us before (i.e. the tech nerds) that need the latest, just remember,  WAP, GPRS, 3G, HSPA, WiMAX etc.  But will it actually mean something to the consumer ? Certainly, but there will hardly be any “4G services”.   Looking at the advertising, most of the visionary services advertised as 4G where already in the visions for 3G in the mid 90′ s. And why is that so ? Well most of theses  services require nothing but a reasonably reliable IP-bitpipe , and that can be provide by any of the later 3G technologies. 

So whats the fuzz with 4G then ?  Is there anything in it for me as a dongle/smartphone user? Yes, even though we do not see any new “LTE -enabled services”, the IP-pipe will over time be more reliable and the data rates will indeed go up from time to time compared to your current HSPA interface.  But mostly, its  a vendor – operator thing. As we have skyrocketing usage of mobile data, the demand for more mobile data capacity is very high. As most users are on flat rate plans and are not paying more for more bits, this additional capacity has to be cheap. Enter LTE that can lower the “production” cost per Gbyte significantly.

So 4G is not likely to be a revolution at the user end but a much hoped for evolution that will  allow users to continue surfing a current flat rate charges with big “GB -allowances” , rather that experience increased monthly fees and/or lower bucket sizes. 

Not so “sexy” sale pitch, agreed. The tech-geeks, however will buy the acronyms anyway.

Finally, if an operator tries to sell you mobile access at  100 Mbit/s, be skeptical!  Its like selling you a car that makes 300 km/h. Yes, theoretically you could reach that speed, but how many roads are that straight and empty  that will allow you to reach that speed? When you are interested in using the service, many around you will have the same interest.

See also previous blogpost by SL Kim 

Read also this Blog post on the ridiculous(?) debate in the US on what is “the real 4G”

Pretty OK sales pitch by NSN – it goes a little off-hand in the middle though.

About Jens Zander

Professor Jens Zander is professor in Radio Communication Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He has been among the few in Swedens Ny Teknik magazine's annual list of influential people in ICT that have been given the epithet “Mobile Guru”. He is one of the leading researchers in mobile communication and is the Scientific director of the industry/academia collaboration center Wireless@KTH. His research group focuses on three main areas – the efficient and scalable use of the radio frequency spectrum, economic aspects of mobile systems and application and energy efficiency in future wireless infrastructures.
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