ITU redefines ‘4G’

Commercially deployed LTE, WiMax, HSPA+, and even “evolved” forms of 3G now may all be accurately referred to as “4G.” The International Telecommunication Union (Geneva, Switzerland) has altered the definition of the “4G” standard to one that aligns with the marketing activities of companies like Sprint, Clearwire, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless; though public controversy will no doubt continue.


Commercially deployed LTE, WiMax, HSPA+, and even “evolved” forms of 3G now may all be accurately referred to as “4G.” The International Telecommunication Union (Geneva, Switzerland) has altered the definition of the “4G” standard to one that aligns with the marketing activities of companies like Sprint, Clearwire, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless; though public controversy will no doubt continue.

In the U.S., Verizon’s LTE network, Sprint’s WiMax network, and T-Mobile’s recently announced HSPA+ network have all been publicly portrayed as “4G” networks. But while all these technologies are faster than 3G, each one’s performance was a far cry from the official 4G specification laid out by the ITU. That is, of course, until now.

Although the original technical definition of 4G was widely accepted–save for providers of these previously “pre-4G” services–the move’s ultimate value will be the easing of consumer confusion.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the ITU said: “As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as ‘4G,’ although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.”