T-Mobile's 4G Network Isn't Really 4G
Every major cell phone network has started touting their 4G network, which is either just launching or will soon. However, 4G might not mean exactly what you think it means.
T-Mobile is no exception. The company has advertised its HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access Evolved) network upgrades as a 4G network with the associated data speeds. While HSPA+ is indeed faster than 3G, it's not exactly 4G.
First, a quick primer: 3G stands for "third generation," referring roughly to a certain amount of performance seen in hardware of that generation. 4G then is the fourth generation of network hardware that is supposed to bring massive increases in data speeds for smartphone and mobile hotspot users.
The definition of just what exactly 4G means is set by the International Telecommunication Union, and any network must meet the standards of the IMT-Advanced rating in order to be called 4G. HSPA+ does not meet those standards, though it is faster than 3G (around 3-12Mbps).
Don't get too outraged at T-Mobile, though. The truth is none of the upcoming 4G networks are truly 4G. WiMax and LTE (Long Term Evolution) are the two major "4G" technologies being integrated into carrier networks. Even though LTE has theoretical speeds of 300Mbps and WiMax has 72Mbps, neither qualifies as true 4G. The ITU has ruled that only the next generation of each of these technologies, LTE-Advanced and WiMax Release 2, will qualify.
The point, though, is that while T-Mobile was one of the first to claim a 4G network, it’s just more accurate to say that they were the first to bump up 3G speeds significantly. HSPA+ is better, but not 4G better.