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4G is a myth and the hype isnt right

You have likely seen the 4G advertisements all over Orlando, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary and everywhere in Florida and well the entire United States for that matter from Verizon wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint, bragging about a much better their 4G wireless network is. Chris Ondo a Senior Network Administrator for Central Florida Computer Engineering which provides Information Technology Consulting Services to small and medium sized businesses in Central Florida visited the wireless stores in Orlando, Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Sanford, Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach and the hype is just that, all hype.

4g network

Here’s the secret the wireless carriers don’t advertise: 4G is a myth. Like the purple spotted elephant, it hasn’t been spotted anywhere in the wild and it never will.

The International Telecommunication Union, the global wireless standards setting organization, determined last month that 4G is defined as a network capable of download speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). That’s fast enough to download an average high definition movie such as a DVD or a blue-ray movie in about three minutes.

None of the new networks the carriers are rolling out meet that standard.

Sprint wireless was the first to launch a network called 4G, going live with it in early 2011. Then, T-Mobile launched its 4G network, claiming to be “America’s largest 4G network.” Verizon launched it’s 4G network  in late 2010 / early 2011 which it claims will be the nation’s largest and the fastest wireless network . AT&T  is expected to unveil its 4G network next year.

Those wireless networks have theoretical speeds of a fifth to a half that of the official 4G standard. The actual speeds the carriers say they’ll achieve are just a tenth of “real” 4G speed.

So why are the wireless carriers calling these networks 4G?

It’s mostly a matter of PR, industry experts say. Explaining what the wireless carriers’ new networks should be called, and what they’ll be capable of, is a confusing and misleading.

To illustrate: Sprint bought a majority stake in Clearwire communications, which uses a new network technology called WiMAX that’s capable of speeds ranging from 3 Mbps to 10 Mbps. That’s a different technology from Verizon’s new network, based on a standard called Long Term Evolution (LTE), which will average 5 Mbps to 12 Mbps.

Seeing what its competitors were up to, T-Mobile opted to increase the speed capabilities of its existing 3G-HSPA+ network instead of pursuing a new technology. Its expanded network — now called 4G — will reach speeds of 5 Mbps to 12 Mbps.

No matter what they’re called, all of these upgrades are clear improvements — and the carriers shelled out billions of dollars to make them. Current “3G” wireless networks offer actual speeds that range from between 500 kilobits per second to 1.5 Mbps.

So Sprint and Verizon have new, faster networks that are still technically not 4G, while T-Mobile has an old, though still faster network that is actually based on 3G technology.

Confused yet? That’s why they all just opted to call themselves “4G.”

The wireless carriers get defensive about the topic.

“It’s very misleading to make a decision about what’s 4G based on speed alone,” said Stephanie Vinge-Walsh, spokeswoman for Sprint Nextel. “It is a challenge we face in an extremely competitive industry.”

T-Mobile did not respond to a request for comment.

One wireless network representative, who asked not to be identified, claimed that ITU’s 4G line in the sand is being misconstrued. The organization previously approved the use of the term “4G” for Sprint’s WiMAX and Verizon’s LTE networks, he said  though not for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network.

ITU’s PR department ignored that approval in its recent statement about how future wireless technologies would be measured, the representative said. ITU representatives were not immediately available for comment.

“I’m not getting into a technical debate,” said Jeffrey Nelson, spokesman for Verizon Wireless. “Consumers will quickly realize that there’s really a difference between the capabilities of various wireless data networks. All ‘4G’ is not the same.”

And that’s what’s so difficult. The term 4G has become meaningless and confusing as hell for wireless customers.

For instance, T-Mobile’s 4G network, which is technically 3G, will have speeds that are at least equal to — and possibly faster — than Verizon’s 4G-LTE network at launch. At the same time, AT&T’s 3G network, which is also being scaled up like T-Mobile’s, is not being labeled “4G.”

“The labeling of wireless broadband based on technical jargon is likely to fade away in 2011,” said Dan Hays, partner at industry consultancy PRTM. “That will be good news for the consumer. Comparing carriers based on their network coverage and speed will give them more facts to make more informed decisions.”

Hays expects that independent researchers — or the Federal Communications Commission — will step in next year to perform speed and coverage tests.

“Historically, ITU’s classification system has not held a great degree of water and has not been used to enforce branding,” Hays said. “Everyone started off declaring themselves to be 4G long before the official decision on labeling was made. The ITU was three to four years too late to make an meaningful impact on the industry’s use of the term.”

Posted in 4G wireless network, AT&T, Cell Phones, News, Smart Phones, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Wireless Carriers0 Comments

iPhone 5 rumor roundup: what to expect from the next iPhone

Cheaper, faster, better camera among likely improvements

The farther into 2011 we get, the closer we come to a new version of the Apple iPhone. Apple has released a new iPhone each year like clockwork — so what can we expect to see in the iPhone 5?

As it always is with rumors, the iPhone 5 has been associated with just about every new technology out there. Here are the things that seem most likely to actually happen:

Summer release date

This is a no brainer because Apple has been quite consistent in releasing a new iPhone around June or July of each year. You can expect with reasonable certainty that Apple will do the same with the iPhone 5 in 2011.

Faster, multi-Core processor

One of the most widely reported and sourced rumors is that Apple is manufacturing a successor to the A4 processor in the iPhone 4 and iPad. The A5 processor will be based on a Cortex A9 design and feature multiple cores. That would mean significant increases in performance and possibly battery life. It would also keep Apple securely in the technology curve as several other manufacturers are introducing dual-core processors into Android smartphones.

Integrated graphics upgrade

Along with a newer, faster processor, the iPhone 5 is rumored to have an upgraded integrated graphics and video processor (also referred to as IGPU). With Apple’s continuing emphasis on media, especially video and apps, this makes sense because a new graphics processor would boost the iPhone 5’s media capabilities. That means better video, game graphics and possibly even HDMI-out to TVs.  Apple’s OpenCL technology would also be able to use the IGPU to do additional tasks when idle.

NFC technology makes iPhone your iWallet

Near-field communication technology would make it possible to pay for goods and services by simply waving your iPhone 5 over a terminal, no cards or checks needed. Multiple sources have cited engineers working on NFC technology for the iPhone 5. Rumors even indicate that iTunes would expand to manage your debit or credit accounts, basically making the iPhone 5 a futuristic wallet.

New antenna, bye-bye deathgrip

Apple took a beating in the Antennagate scandal following the release of the iPhone 4. Holding the iPhone a certain way, dubbed the “deathgrip,” would drastically reduce the signal. It’s no surprise that Apple is rumored to be changing the antenna design, possibly moving it behind the Apple logo on back, in order to alleviate the problem.

Spec bump

As with each iteration of the iPhone, the iPhone 5 specs will likely get a refresh. Aside from the processors mentioned above, this likely means a little more memory, more storage and possibly a slight increase in screen size (evidence points to a 3.7-inch screen instead of 3.5).

Those are the rumors that are either backed up by multiple sources or obvious from Apple’s iPhone record. The following are several other rumors that are much less reliable, for one reason or another.

Better camera, 1080p video recording

This one isn’t unbelievable, but there is little evidence to back this up. The 5 megapixel, 720p video recording rear camera is already pretty impressive, and Apple may see no reason to update it on this version cycle. However, the upgraded graphics processor could certainly handle 1080p video recording, and 8 megapixel 1080p cameras are the standard for new smartphones.

LTE 4G speeds

4G is all the rage, so it seems like an obvious move for Apple, right? They certainly wouldn’t want to be left behind when almost every other manufacturer is aiming to put out a 4G phone soon, would they? Well, it seems like an obvious choice, but several reliable sources have said that Apple isn’t working on LTE compatibility. Instead, the company is said to be including a dual GSM/CMDA chip (3G technology) from Qualcomm for the iPhone 5. This wouldn’t be the first time Apple decided to hold back, either. The original iPhone was only able to download data at 2G, or EDGE, speeds even though AT&T already had a 3G network in place.

A cheaper iPhone?

Several outlets have breathlessly reported on backroom deals Apple has made that would lead to a cheaper iPhone. However, that seems pretty unlikely. The new hardware isn’t going to be that much cheaper, if it is at all, and Apple already has a pretty stable price point for the iPhone. What’s more, carriers already heavily subsidize the iPhone, so even if its retail price dropped, carriers wouldn’t necessarily lower the subsidized price, too.

Verizon and AT&T Simultaneously?

Just because Verizon finally got access to the iPhone 4 doesn’t mean they have rights to the iPhone 5. AT&T had a longstanding exclusive deal with Apple, and it’s quite possible they might be able to negotiate another exclusivity period for the iPhone 5, even if it’s only a few months to give AT&T a head start. On the other hand, Verizon will be actively lobbying for the same opportunity, and it’s in Apple’s best interest to have the iPhone on as many networks as possible.

Posted in APPLE, AT&T, Cell Phones, Hardware, IPhone, Verizon Wireless, Wireless Carriers0 Comments

iPhone 4 comparison: Verizon vs. AT&T

We’ve managed to get a hands-on with the new Verizon iPhone. The big questions are: What’s the same? What’s different? While only thorough testing will tell us variations in call and data performance, here’s what we know today:

1. The dimensions are the same
There was fear that the CDMA iPhone would be thicker, but we have confirmation that the thickness and other measurements — including weight — are identical.

2. Antennas are slightly different
Though the bottom antenna gaps — which on the AT&T iPhone 4 can be grasped to recreate the “grip of death” known to reduce reception and occasionally drop calls — are still in the same place, the top antenna gap is moved. Instead of being located up next to the headphone jack, it is located on the side, above the mute switch.

Though this doesn’t necessarily correspond to any difference in performance, it did cause the switch and volume buttons to drop down “ever so slightly,” says Rivera. Our friend Rosa at Gizmodo points out that this hard-to-notice button shift could affect case makers, and might even throw off the iPhone 4 “bumper” that saved many a dropped call.

3. No SIM slot
Anyone familiar with the CDMA phones from Verizon and Sprint knows there’s no SIM card slot. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there’s none found on the first CDMA iPhone. (If this were a Verizon LTE 4G phone, or a CDMA/GSM world phone, there would be a SIM slot, however.)

4. “Internet tethering” vs. “personal hotspot”
While both phones can be used — at extra service cost — to provide Internet access to your computer, only Verizon’s is offering a personal hotspot, enabling not one computer but up to five devices to access the phone’s Internet connection, via Wi-Fi.

5. No simultaneous data and voice
Something we assumed before that was confirmed today was that the first Verizon iPhone would not allow for simultaneous voice and data connections. This means that while a call is engaged, you’ll be able to access Contacts and apps, but no app or services that requires Internet access will function properly.

If some of these differences sound a bit subtle, they are. After a thorough going over, we’re convinced that Apple did its best to make these phones all but indistinguishable.

Posted in APPLE, AT&T, Cell Phones, IPhone, Smart Phones, Verizon Wireless, Wireless Carriers0 Comments


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