For years Cell C has been the black sheep of the mobile broadband market as the only company without a 3G/HSDPA network. Cell C is now beefing up their network by investing R5 billion in order to allow them to offer 21 Mbps HSPA+ services.
While Cell C’s imminent entrance into the broadband market was widely welcomed by the local telecoms community, some of the statements and claims which accompanied the company’s announcement have drawn criticism from industry players and journalists alike.
Cell C claiming to be first
In January Cell C CEO Lars P. Reichelt said that “few would have predicted that Cell C would ever lead the industry as far as network infrastructure is concerned but it is a fact that Cell C will be the first South African operator to roll out HSPA+ technologies incorporating download speeds of up to 21Mbit/s – three times faster than anything currently available,” said Reichelt.
At the time MyBroadband questioned Cell C and Reichelt about this claim, but the company refused to comment any further on this claim. Cell C’s reluctance to comment on this statement may well be related to the dubious nature of this declaration.
Both Vodacom and MTN launched commercial 21 Mbps HSPA+ services over the last few weeks, the first blow to Reichelt’s claims of ‘leading the industry in terms of network infrastructure’ and that ‘Cell C will be the first South African operator to roll out HSPA+ technologies’.
Cell C’s 4G claims
In their January press release Cell C further claims to roll out a 4G network which Reichelt has doggedly continued to punt over the last few weeks.
Reichelt recently said that he will be glad to sit down and discuss his 4G network claims, but despite requests by MyBroadband to meet with the Cell C CEO to discuss the matter no feedback or meeting was forthcoming.
This statement by Reichelt drew sharp criticism from journalists and industry players. Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys made it clear that it is simply not possibly to currently roll out a 4G network as the technology is not ready yet.
Uys also poked fun at Cell C’s claims to have built a 4G network. Uys said that “there is an urban legend doing the rounds that there is a 4G network being built”, adding that 4G is the second generation of LTE (LTE advanced) providing minimum downlink speeds of 100 Mbps.
What is 4G?
So what exactly is 4G, and is the Cell C CEO making unsubstantiated claims which may confuse consumers about the network Cell C is currently rolling out?
It is well known that 4G essentially refers to a ‘fourth generation’ of cellular wireless standards, but there are more requirements associated with this definition.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) the main requirements for 4G are:
- Peak data rate of 100Mbps for high mobility applications such as mobile access
- Approx. 1Gbps for low mobility applications such as nomadic/local wireless access
- An all-IP based solution
According to the “Requirements related to technical performance for IMT-Advanced radio interface”, as defined by ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), 4G shall also support a scalable bandwidth up to and including 40 MHz.
According to the ITU “pre-4G technology 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) is often branded “4G”, but the first LTE release does not fully comply with the IMT-Advanced requirements.”
The following table provides an overview of some of mobile technologies and their ‘G’ classification.
Mobile telephony standards
|3.5G||HSPA (HSDPA and HSUPA), EV-DO RevA|
|3.75G||HSPA+, EV-DO RevB|
|4G||LTE Advanced, Mobile WiMax (IEEE 802.16m)|
According to the table it is simply not possible to roll out a 4G network at this stage, and one telecoms professional stated that “Anyone selling you anything which is ’4G’ is fooling you”.
Trying to fool ignorant consumers?
Reichelt is however not the only CEO trying to add a ‘G’ – or at least a fraction of a G, to their network capabilities. Sprint in the US recently announced that they have a 4G WiMax network, using the term 4G as a selling point.
It is understandable that many consumers are ignorant regarding the definition of 4G, and hence assume that Cell C’s ‘4G’ network is more advanced than Vodacom and MTN’s 3.75G network. In light of this it is easy to see why many industry players are less unhappy with Reichelt’s 4G claims.
If operators and executives start to lose respect for technical standards, we may soon see claims of maximum downlink speeds which are way beyond the network capabilities of the telecoms operator. It is simply not acceptable – and hence one would hope that Cell C either backs up its 4G claims with some concrete evidence or refrains from using an inaccurate term.
4G debate << give your views on the 4G network claims by Cell C
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