Monday, 13 October 2008

What on earth is this 4G, anyway?

Over the past two years I have been hearing a lot about next generation technologies. It all started by 3.5G i.e. HSPA evolution etc and hence the debate entered into the area of 4G.
Everybody comes along on the blogs, articles, tech magazines etc and make himself/herself comfortable as per their liking with the word 4G.

Some people use the term "4G" to describe WiMAX technology. This terminology i.e. 4G used by WiMax camp does indeed upset some people specially the ones in the LTE camp.

Everyday I come across individuals who have different view regarding the 4G terms. Some do shockingly tell me that neither WiMax nor LTE is a 4G technology rather LTE evolution or LTE advanced will be termed as a 4G technology.

I have literally reached to stage now where I think I should give up now and just leave to almighty to decide what actually a 4G technology is. If you ask me about my personal opinion on this then my view is quite clear in this. I categorize 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, three out of 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.

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 body has backed away from the phrase 4G. IMT-Advanced is a "big tent" term that will/may/should encompasses 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.

I know this whole argument of 4G terms upset many people. They think and rightly so that the whole concept behind a 'Standards Body' is so that such arguments are moot. These guys think that people use different terms to coin their own standards for marketing, one-upmanship and generally nonconformist attitudes.

Well let's hope that some day somebiody will come out with a clear idnetity of the 4G technology which is acceptable to everybody. Meanwhile my friend in the picture above is working hard to find out what 4G really is.

2 comments:

Pablo said...

Some flavours of 802.11 are based on OFDM, I don't think you would classify them as 4G.

ITU-R never officially used the xG terms; the set of recommendations for 3G was IMT-2000, the one for "4G" is IMT-Advanced.

I'd love to chat with your friend (about 4G of course) - any 2G/3G/4G contact number that you can provide? :)

Devendra Sharma said...

I was just trying to generalize the term 4G as i have experienced that 4G is mostly associated with WiMax and LTE which is based on OFDM. Although it is right to say that not every falvour of 802.11 which based on OFDM can be termed as 4G.
My friend will be available to take all the emails once she is finished with her research as you can see she is very busy -:)