What is All the 4G Hype About? A “trini” Perspective

4g

So, I guess if you live in Trinidad, by now you’d realize that both the carriers (the people who offer you mobile services) are offering a service known as 4G. Now first off I’m not going to say I’m a network genius and know exactly what I’m talking about but I’m tired of people asking the same thing over and over. So here we go. In case you didn’t know, all of this info can be easily read from online and googling but, I’d save you some time. Yes, I may use wikipedia as a source, problem?

So What is 4G?

Ideally, it stands for fourth generation. The 4th Generation in mobile phone communication standards.

Where did 3G go?

Well, you may know we had EDGE data and GPRS. These two were 2nd gen. standards. Based on the upgrade path both networks took, it made no sense taking up 3G because in essence, the 4G they are advertising is actually an upgraded 3G network.

Wait, What? It’s Not Actually 4G Then?

Yes and no.

Yes in a way because although the technology both networks are using is one known as HSPA+ or Evolved High Speed Packet Access, they are allowed to advertise it as 4G. They can advertise it as 4G because it follows the standard for what 4G is supposed to be, well, the lower end of the spectrum, I’d say due to a revision. This is the latency and bandwidth and some technicalities which I won’t bore you with. So while you are getting a little faster than 3G speeds, they can call it 4G.

And, no, it’s not because theoretically it was initially a standard known as 3.9G and while HSPA+ has a lot of road to go, 4G itself is quite a leap in mobile standard and calling what we have right now in the world 4G is somewhat exaggerated.

P.S. one might start the conversation of LTE, etc. for which I will simply tell you, yawn, it’s going to be a while before we see LTE. *avoids boring rant about LTE vs HSPA+*

I may guess that the reason the networks didn’t go to LTE or whatever is two fold. One side is that of users already have the HSPA+ capable devices in their pocket like the host of Android, Blackberry and iDevices so why go with something that requires the user to go and buy a new phone and is currently a somewhat limited market, they’d have to waste tons (more) on marketing and advertising much fewer devices. Also, the standard LTE I’d say is still new. Why waste money on something that still “new” and in testing? (lol bmobile whats up with WiMAX?)

So If This is 4G in a Sense, Why I’m I Not Seeing it as 4G?

speed

You have an iPhone and you’re seeing the 3G logo and not 4G and thinking, wait, what? or an android device and seeing H or H+ but not 4G… well guess what, it’s correct.

For iPhones, the AT&T network shows 4G only because of the carrier update. It is HSPA+ data and hence it will show up as 3G because that’s what the iPhone detects it as. You will get the theoretical maximum speed of the device (7.2Mbit for iPhone 4, 14.4Mbit for 4S, 21 for iPhone 5, all Downlink) but it will still show up as 3G because: 1) bmobile carrier bundle didn’t have the 4G files which I assume they are sticking to push out to you as usual, 2) Digicel is an unsupported carrier so, you’ll be seeing 3G for a while or even 374-130.

Same applies to android. On android, unless you are on an LTE network or some patch to display HSPA+ speeds with a 4G logo, you’ll be seeing H, H+ or even 3G depending on the speed/latency etc. of the network.

What happens when u go out of a 4G area?

Simple, you don’t get “4G” speeds anymore. Both networks are supposed to be designed to handle the fallback to the EDGE network seamlessly since they both don’t have the entire country covered. With most of my testing on Digicel (yes the bigger better network) they do listen to their customers and when 4G came out in my area, it sucked but now it works great. So if you are having issues, report it! With EDGE speeds you will get the good ole’ dial-up or less speed we were all accustomed to.

Which phones work?

Easily you can check the both network’s websites to find out. Digicel did a great job with their FAQ here outlining most of the details. Importantly however just like when you were looking for a GSM phone it should be working on certain bands, HSPA also has a certain UMTS band, for Trinidad it is 1900MHz so any phone capable of working on this band, will work with our 4G/HSPA+ network.

Want More Information?

Wikipedia Articles:4G, HSPA, HPSA+, Comparison of Mobile Data Standards

Great article at Triniberry

Anandtech goes technical as usual for those who want moar

Why they can call it 4G?

Thank you for reading. I hope it was informative and if there are any corrections to be made, let me know.

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