“We are [now] going into what we call 4G, and for 4G to work we need spectrum in the 800MHz, 1,800MHz or 2,600MHz bands, and that spectrum we do not have today,” said Joosub.
The Vodacom CEO explained that they have some 1,800MHz spectrum, but that it is currently used for the 2G network and has to be re-farmed to be used for LTE.
Very few people will disagree with Joosub that spectrum should be handed to operators to deploy broadband networks, but what is likely to lift a few eyebrows is Vodacom’s use of the term 4G to describe LTE.
4G has become synonymous with LTE globally – which may explain Joosub’s use of the term – but considering that Vodacom engaged in an extensive battle with Cell C arguing against this exact point makes this issue interesting.
Vodacom argued that the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU’s) definition of 4G only allows for LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced.
The ITU also confirmed Vodacom’s view, explicitly stating that the ITU does not view LTE, WiMax and HSPA+ as 4G.
An Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) ruling in favour of Vodacom in this matter forced Cell C to change its marketing campaign, product packaging and other branding, which cost the company millions.
The shoe in now on the other foot with Vodacom (and not Cell C) referring to LTE as 4G, despite the fact that it does not subscribe to the ITU’s definition which Vodacom argued should govern the use of the term 4G.
Vodacom said that there is no change in what they see as 4G, adding that by strict definition LTE is actually 3.9G and LTE Advanced will be 4G.
“However, more and more operators and device manufacturers around the world are using the terms interchangeably. Modems and handsets are already being labeled as 4G,” explained Joosub.
“To avoid customer confusion and prevent South Africa getting out of step with the terminology used in the rest of the world, we may have to take the practical decision to adopt the term 4G.”
It is curious to note that Cell C argued this exact point during the ASA hearings, but Vodacom aggressively attacked this view at the time. Vodacom argued that the fact that international operators are using the term 4G is no excuse for trying to hoodwink consumers into thinking they are getting something they are not (telling them they get 4G technology when they do not).