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Worst of the Week: Lies are a pain in the neck

Hello! And welcome to our Friday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!
And without further ado:
I believe there is an old journalist saying about not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, and thus base most of what I write for Worst of the Week on that axiom. However, when it comes to the companies that I cover in the wireless space, I selfishly don’t provide for that same level of flexibility. If they say something, I expect it to be based on some sort of truth, or at least a kernel of truth that they can back up no matter how feebly.
So you want to claim you have the “most dependable” network around? Sure, I will doubt that claim, but if you have some measurable evidence to back that claim, I will provide the appropriate slack. Just don’t look twice if I roll my eyes fast enough to cause whiplash.
And so it was this week when Verizon Wireless unveiled some high-production quality video of “consumers” getting a taste of the carrier’s new LTE network in the Boston area. The video shows consumers in a coffee shop (of course) playing on the Internet using a laptop computer running over the carrier’s LTE network. From their reactions you would think they were seeing a new version of the Internet that hypnotized them into zombies capable only of staring in wonder muttering “wow!” In other words: priceless.
The video then goes on to show a speed test running on the computer to provide real number “proof” to those of us incapable of understanding human emotion. This test shows download speeds of 8.55 megabits per second and upload speeds of 2.8 Mbps. The video also shows a similar test running on a 3G network showing download speeds of 2.21 Mbps and upload speed of 860 kilobits per second.
All of this is quite impressive, though fail to match other videos on the Internet for entertainment value. But, after processing what I watched, the only conclusion I could come to was: “Is that it? I thought ‘4G’ was going to blow us away with its speed making all of humanity smash their cellphones that were capable of only ‘3G’ speeds.”
Instead, we are shown that all of this light-speed talk of 4G is really just 3G, but four times faster. I am not trying to downplay the technical achievements needed to boost the speed of something by four times, but what about all the hype?
(Also, I am assuming that the LTE network in Boston was being lightly used during the speed test, while the 3G network, which I assumed was Verizon Wireless’, was being tested in a heavily congested state. Despite this apparent “load” advantage, the 4G network was still only four-times faster? Really?)
Heck, even the fuddy-duddies over at the ITU have been claiming that 4G will basically change the way we live and breathe. This from a 2003 ITU report:
Recommendation ITU-R M.1645: Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT-2000 and systems beyond IMT-2000.
A new radio access interface(s) is envisaged to handle a wide range of supported data rates according to economic and service demands in multi-user environments with peak data rates, as targets for research, of up to approximately 100 Mbit/s for high mobility applications such as mobile access, and up to approximately 1 Gbit/s for low mobility applications such as nomadic/local wireless access.

Do you see that? The ITU is throwing around the “gigabit” word. I believe that would be fast enough to allow for something as basic as time travel.
I am not just blaming Verizon Wireless for this buzz kill of epic proportions. Sprint Nextel with its “4G” service is spending millions of dollars I am not sure it has claiming the service is “up to 10 times faster than 3G.” In the fine print the carrier uses claims of 3G speeds being between 600 kbps and 1.7 Mbps while its WiMAX network provides speeds of between 3 and 6 Mbps. Sure, the difference between 600 kbps and 6 Mbps does back the 10 times claim, but you could also say the service is less than twice as fast.
I know all of this can easily be lumped into the column of marketing, but that should not excuse the fact that all of this “4G” talk is likely to be counterproductive to setting consumer expectations, and more importantly it’s causing me serious neck pain.
OK, enough of that.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Worst of the Week column. And now for some extras:
–This week saw a number of interesting names pop up in my inbox. Zazam!; Goober Networks; Verizon. (O.K., that last one is not new to me, but I am still confused as to what it means.) All of these reminded me that for the most part companies in the telecom field take themselves way too seriously. Sure, an official sounding name with some variation of the word “telecommunications” in it probably looks more impressive when trying to raise money on Wall Street, but where’s the fun?
That is why Goober gets special recognition, as the company is involved with what could be the driest sector of the telecom space: unified communication. But, with a name like Goober, I all of a sudden want to learn more about it. Good on ya Goober! Way to not let just the application developer field take all the awesome names.
–Looks like June is setting up to be sweeps month for the wireless industry with more than a few carriers set to launch new “halo” devices beginning next month. Sprint Nextel is set to unveil its first WiMAX smartphone, the Evo 4G, on June 4; while T-Mobile USA said it will launch Garmin’s well-connected and oddly-named Garminfone sometime during the month as well.
And then of course there is the expected launch of some fringe device from a computer maker out of Cupertino, Calif., that some think will happen sometime in June that might also draw some attention. I think we all need to thank the wireless industry for bringing a little bit of the holiday’s to the middle of the year.
I welcome your comments. Please send me an e-mail at [email protected].


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