Microwave Journal

The 4G Controversy

November 16, 2010
Some industry experts and research analysts agree that today's WiMAX (802.16e) and LTE technologies are 4G but do they really meet the definition of 4G as others say they do not. Now that the ITU has officially accepted 802.16m and LTE-Advanced as IMT-Advanced technologies (4G), the issue has surfaced again. What makes it more confusing is that where the ITU mainly referred to IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced in the past, it is now including 3G with IMT-2000 and 4G with IMT-Advanced.

It is true that the current LTE and WiMAX systems are 4th generation networks so shouldn't they be called that. But 4G networks should also meet some minimal performance specs for data rates, security, etc. (ITU now specifies 4G with peak rates up to about 100 Mbit/s). With the ITU's specifications of 4G now published, the performance specifications for 4G are far above those of current systems making them more like 3.9G (or something like that) as their speeds are in the tens of Mbit/s speeds.

All the carriers are calling their latest networks 4G any way in order to keep up with their marketing to the public of the latest faster networks. T-Mobile is saying their new HSPA+ network is 4G; AT&T and Verizon are deploying LTE networks as 4G; and Sprint and Clearwire are deploying WiMAX in the same way. So the point is probably mute as these carriers are already defining and marketing their current networks as 4G, so I think it is too late for the ITU to define it. But I agree that the ITU has a more proper definition since performance specifications are spelled out to quantify the requirements.

Here is our latest article written by the UMTS Chairman about the evolution of from HSPA to LTE and beyond. What do you think?