cell phone providers

Is T-Mobile offering 4G or not?

I’ve been doing a lot of research on cell phone providers lately, and the big attraction for all of them seems to be 4G. It’s the, “no trans fats” or “it has electrolytes” of cell phones.

So what is 4G? The easy answer is that it’s the “fourth generation” mobile wireless standard. 3G being the current smart phones, 2G being that garbage you had in 1998, and 1G being those analog phones that were the size of toasters.

I know, scary.

The longer-but-still-short answer is that 4G lets your phone download information much faster than 3G phones. 3G will download on average somewhere between 600 Kilobits per second (Kbps), and 1.4 Megabits per second (Mbps.) 4G grabs information at between 3 Mbps and 6 Mbps.

Sprint has come out with their 4G plan this year in select cities. Verizon and AT&T have both announced their own plans would be available in 2011.

T-Mobile has taken a slightly different approach, and it’s confusing a lot of people. Rather than invest in 4G technology, T-Mobile is bragging that they will deliver “4G speeds” with their current network.

In short, they’re using the marketability of the 4G brand without actually having to give 4G. It’s their version of “genuine fake leather seats.” They can reproduce these speeds in their labs I’m sure. If they don’t deliver at speeds as high as +3 Mpbs, however, they can always shrug their shoulders and say, “hey, we never said you’d get 4G.”

What I can’t tell is if there is any reality to the speed of HSPA+. There are reports that it runs faster than Sprint’s WiMax 4G network. Also, if you are already on T-Mobile and have an Android phone, you won’t need to change out handsets. Maybe. I say “maybe” because T-Mobile is also leaking details of their coming HSPA+ handsets – which suggests you’d need one to use this improved network.

If nothing else, this is a smart marketing move by T-Mobile to keep their customers from leaving. They are already in deep trouble as a company, with many wondering if they will still be around by next year. Since they don’t have the money to invest in a 4G network, they’re offering upgrades to what they already have. I’m sure Verizon, AT&T and Sprint would have loved to offer “4G speeds” without the cost of actually building a 4G network.

That they haven’t suggests to me that it doesn’t really work.