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).