It’s official: LTE, WiMax and HSPA+ not 4G

The International Telecommunication Union has now laid any speculation to rest about what they see as 4G


The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) surprised many telecoms experts in December 2010 when they released a media statement which ‘recognized that the term [4G] may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies [LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced], LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies.”

Many technology publications and industry players interpreted this statement as the ITU sanctioning the use of 4G in relation to WiMax, LTE and HSPA+.

The tech media was littered with reports that the ITU now sees LTE, WiMax and evolved 3G as 4G, and operators started using the statement from the telecoms union as justification for their 4G marketing campaigns.

In South Africa for example, Cell C used the ITU’s December 2010 statement as the foundation of their recent appeal to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), contesting a ruling which meant that the company could no longer market its HSPA+ network and products as 4G/4Gs services.

Only IMT-Advanced is 4G

In March 2011 ITU spokesperson Sanjay Acharya told MyBroadband that the ITU sees IMT-Advanced as 4G.

“Since 2000, IMT-2000 has been widely deployed and referred to as 3G. ITU has now announced the next-generation of standards for global wireless broadband communications, known as IMT-Advanced,” said Acharya.

Acharya added that the ITU has determined that “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced, and hence 4G. The detailed specifications of these IMT-Advanced technologies will be provided in a new ITU-R Recommendation expected in early 2012.

But what about the December 2010 ITU statement? Acharya explains that the term 4G remains undefined, but noted that it is being applied by operators to the forerunners of IMT-Advanced technologies such as  HSPA+, LTE, and WiMax, which provide a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.

LTE, WiMax, HSPA+ not 4G

Until now the ITU has not explicitly stated that they do not view HSPA+, WiMax and LTE as 4G, but this has changed.

In response to a media query by MyBroadband, Acharya eliminated any ambiguity regarding the ITU’s view on the term 4G.

Acharya explicitly stated that the ITU does not view LTE, WiMax and HSPA+ as 4G. Acharya said that only LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced is viewed as 4G, and that they view LTE, WiMax and HSPA+ as “evolved 3G”.

This essentially clears up any uncertainty regarding the organizations’ previous press statement which was used in some cases in justifying the use of the term 4G in relation to HSPA+ and 4G services.

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