And what is 4G, anyway?

Sprint uses the term "4G" to describe WiMAX technology. This seems to upset people, judging from the public and private comments on last week's editor corner, "Stop Swift-Boating WiMAX".  

On the XOHM side of the equation, CEO Barry West - who has to be a fun guy at parties - categorizes 1G as analog mobile, 2G as digital, 3G as CDMA, and 4G as anything using OFDM. It's pretty simple, it is straightforward, there's not a lot of haggling.

Wikipedia says "There is no formal definition for what 4G is; however, there are certain objectives that are projected for 4G. These objectives include: that 4G will be a fully IP-based integrated system. 4G will be capable of providing between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s speeds both indoors and outdoors, with premium quality and high security."

By the Wikipedia definition, 3 out of 4 four definitions are met under the existing definitions of WiMAX; nobody thinks that the current definition of WiMAX is going to be able to crank up to 1 Gbit/sec, but life, as they say, ain't so simple.

There's a whole Hatfields and McCoy's feud between the IEEE and the ITU. To oversimplify, IEEE guys are data geeks while the ITU people are, well, Bellheads.

A spokesperson for Nokia has said "There's no official owner of who defines 4G," and you would think if anyone could tell you what 4G was/is/will be, it would be Nokia.

ITU-R is in the process of defining IMT-Advanced, but, funny enough, the standards boday has backed away from the phrase 4G. IMT-Advanced is a "big tent" term that will/may/should encompass 802.16m and LTE-Advanced which in turn are faster than WiMAX and LTE standards respective. Maybe.

If I understand this descent into acronyms and definitions, even the forthcoming, first generation LTE would not qualify as a 4G technology. That is, if we call IMT-Advanced as the term formerly known as 4G - but not called 4G by ITU-R.

Right now, I'm inclined to live with Barry's definition. It's simple, relatively clear-cut, and doesn't get into haggling over esoteric terminology that has resulted in spewing out derivatives like 2.75G, 3.5G, 3.75G, and pre-4G (please tell me you are screaming pre-802.11n right now).

- Doug