We can say that the Universe consists of a substance, and this substance we call "atoms" or else we call it "monads". Democritus called it atoms. Leibniz called it monads. Fortunately, the two never met or there would have been a very dull argument. - Woody Allen
The Democritus/Leibniz debate-that-never-was flashed through my mind when I read about the decision, by T-Mobile USA, to refer to their HSPA+ network as 4G. Herewith a quote from Jeremy Korst, director of mobile broadband products and services at T-Mobile, interviewed by FierceWireless
: “Our competitors are talking about 4G speeds as 3 Mbps to 5 Mbps and asking customers to pay more for that service. We have had third parties clock our speeds at 5 Mbps and we aren't asking customers to pay more for it.” Thus spake Democritus. Now over to Leibniz, in the shape of AT&T Mobility spokesman Seth Bloom: "I think that companies need to be careful that they're not misleading customers by labeling HSPA+ as a 4G technology," AT&T, you see, is also rolling out HSPA+, although firmly under the 3G moniker; it completed the nationwide deployment of HSPA 7.2 in January, and expects to have upgraded much of the network to HSPA+ by the end of the year. Its LTE network – aka 4G to you, me, AT&T, 3GPP, the world, the world’s dog, pretty much everyone except T-Mobile – is expected to be trialled later this year with commercial deployment scheduled for the latter half of 2011. Meanwhile, arch rival Verizon Wireless announced in April that it had completed LTE testing in Boston and Seattle, and that its own 4G network would be launched in 25-30 during the fourth quarter of this year. So, why has T-Mobile broken ranks on the 4G nomenclature? There is a precedent – ten years or so ago, when no one was quite sure what constituted a 3G network*, the CDG slipped in by offering CDMA 1xRTT as the first 3G technology. The primary outcome of this was to irritate the analyst community, who continued to regard it as 2.5G – because they’d all just built databases saying so and then had to spend countless hours over the next few years making assumptions on what proportion of CDMA users were EV-DO (“proper” 3G) and what proportion 1xRTT. But in that instance, at least there quite a few operators in the “Vote CDMA 1xRTT for 3G” camp. Here, it’s just T-Mobile USA. Regardless of the explanation offered up by T-Mobile, there would seem to be an element of wishing to steal a march on its rivals: to steal their thunder prior to their LTE launches, and to establish itself in the public consciousness as the 4G front-runner. In which case, Mr Bloom/Leibniz might have a point. Is it 4G, then? I don’t know: it doesn’t fulfil the initial specifications for 4G laid down by 3GPP, but then – if we’re being pedantic – neither does LTE, which was regarded as 3.9G for a long time until the standards body decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and an extra 0.1G. Its theoretical uplink and downlink peaks are also well below those of LTE. Ultimately, I suppose the arbiter will have to be the industry as a whole. As the mother of the successful businessman, who visited her dressed in a captain’s uniform, observed: “To you, you’re a captain; to me, you’re a captain; but to a captain, are you are a captain?” Interestingly, T-Mobile has yet to confirm whether it will be upgrading HSPA+ with LTE in the future. Which leads inevitably to the question: if they do go down the LTE route, having already played their 4G card, how are they going to market it? *My own definition from personal experience, “something you can’t get on a train between Basingstoke and Cosham”, might simultaneously be described as too specific – in that the 3GPP probably hasn’t been to Cosham, in which case I envy them – and too wide-ranging, in that you cannot get other desirables en route, such as a decent meal, and thus including a Fillet Rossini within the terms of the definition might be pushing it somewhat.