updated 03:50 pm EDT, Wed June 22, 2011
Next Gen Wireless Disclosure Act talks 4G in House
Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has proposed a bill that would require carriers be forthright about increasingly confusing 4G terminology. The Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act would require that carriers publish details about their minimum 4G speeds, their coverage, and the reliability of the network. Eshoo hoped to set a framework for "what 4G speed really is" and make sure customers knew what they were getting.
Advocacy group Public Knowledge was informally endorsing the bill as it would improve "transparency" and was important to knowing what to expect in a country that focuses heavily on contracts.
The CTIA, a group representing the carriers themselves, naturally objected to the bill. It would add a "new layer of regulation to a new and exciting set of services," the organization said, claiming that the bill was ignoring the tendency for performance to change. The CTIA always objects to regulations that don't immediately serve corporate interests and has resisted net neutrality among other rules.
Critics have argued that the bill wouldn't have been necessary if it weren't for a rush to market services as 4G on questionable grounds. Sprint was the first to make the claim in the US with its WiMAX service, though its format is one of the closest matches to the International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) original guidelines. Most of the blame has been pinned on T-Mobile, which began marketing its HSPA+ 3G service as 4G. Verizon has the fastest actual service of the major US carriers and gets closest to 4G in terms of speed, but AT&T adopted the 4G badge solely to avoid a perception it was lagging behind everyone else despite having the fastest service outside of Verizon.
Officially, 'true' 4G on ITU standards requires at least 100Mbps, which only some LTE networks can reach. LTE-Advanced and WiMAX 2 are the only two standards that are formally certified as 4G by the ITU, though it relaxed its rules to allow the current confused state of 4G in North America. [via CNET]