While Vodacom has launched its LTE offering without 4G branding, Vodacom’s Jannie van Zyl told attendees of the 2012 MyBroadband conference that the adoption of the marketing term may need to be considered for practical reasons, echoing the sentiments of new Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub.
Vodacom took a strong stance on the definition of 4G in a protracted battle over advertising with Cell C at the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA).
Citing an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) spokesperson’s comments that they don’t consider LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+ to be 4G, Vodacom argued that Cell C should not be able to refer to its network as “4Gs”.
The ASA directorate ruled against Cell C and, along with other claims made by the network, ordered them to stop using 4Gs in their advertising.
Cell C appealed this decision, arguing that the ITU spokesperson, Sanjay Acharya, was not an expert in the field or even qualified to speak on behalf of the ITU.
In their concluding ruling on the matter, the ASA’s Final Appeal Committee conceded that there is no evidence that Acharya is an expert on mobile technologies, but that he is the chief of public information for the ITU.
Despite Vodacom’s previous stance on the matter, however, the red network’s new CEO, Shameel Joosub, referred to LTE as “4G” in an interview that was live-streamed on the Internet.
He defended the use of the term, saying that a practical decision may need to be taken to adopt 4G to avoid customer confusion and prevent South Africa from “getting out of step with the terminology used in the rest of the world”.
Joosub explained that operators and device manufacturers around the world are using the terms interchangeably, and that modems and handsets are already being labeled as 4G.
Cell C used the same argument to defend the use of 4G to refer to an HSPA+ network, but Vodacom aggressively attacked this view at the time.
“We will not stand for Vodacom having it both ways,” Knott-Craig said.
Van Zyl, who is the head of data at Vodacom and former former CEO of iBurst, said that the use of 4G to refer to an LTE network is technically incorrect. However, Van Zyl said that the broader question is what the industry will accept and the press will report.
Answering his own question, Van Zyl said that local publications have spoken of LTE as “4G” for some time now and added that equipment vendors such as Samsung and Huawei are shipping devices all over the world that are branded as “4G”.
Add to this the fact that 81% of the LTE networks deployed in the world call it “4G”, and operators sit with a dilemma, Van Zyl said.
And the reason for the confusion? “Marketing people, of course, got hold of this [4G term] quite awhile ago and tore it apart and we sit today with this dilemma,” Van Zyl said. ”So I think practically we are all going to end up calling it 4G LTE.”