Tag Archives: 4G

AT&T hides 4G digital divide behind 5GE facade

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Opensignal att 5ge 22mar2019

AT&T’s 5GE scam is unravelling. Measurements taken by an independent testing company, OpenSignal, show that slapping a phony 5G label on upgraded 4G LTE service does not make the user experience any faster.

According to OpenSignal’s blog post

Some AT&T users in the U.S. have recently seen “5G E” appear on the status bar of their existing smartphones, replacing 4G. This move has sparked controversy because AT&T is using updated 4G network technologies to connect these smartphone users, not the new 5G standard…

Analyzing Opensignal’s data shows that AT&T users with 5G E-capable smartphones receive a better experience than AT&T users with less capable smartphone models…But AT&T users with a 5G E-capable smartphone receive similar speeds to users on other carriers with the same smartphone models that AT&T calls 5G E. The 5G E speeds which AT&T users experience are very much typical 4G speeds and not the step-change improvement which 5G promises.

If anything, AT&T’s attempt to jump the 5G gun seems about to backfire. The tests show that real 4G improvements have been made by AT&T, as well as Verizon and T-Mobile. Combining upgraded LTE infrastructure with current generation smartphones produces significantly faster download speeds. But instead of trying to capitalise on 4G success, AT&T is positioning itself as an evolved 5G failure.

To a large extent, AT&T’s future is built on expanding its portfolio of 4G systems. It’s using federal subsidies to build a 4G-based national public safety network and to deploy its 4G-based wireless local loop technology to replace rural copper networks. It will be building true 5G systems over the next five to ten years in urban markets where money and customers are thicker on the ground, but not in rural communities where 5G equipment will be relegated to an “infill” role, if it’s deployed at all.

Slapping a 5G label, with or without the microscopic E, on everything is an attempt – doomed, hopefully – by AT&T to disguise the growing divide between digital haves and have nots.

AT&T’s theory of Evolution assumes its customers aren’t highly Evolved

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Att customer evolution

AT&T subscribers will get 5G on their smartphones soon. No, not 5G service. Just a “5” and a “G” and a little bitty “E” at the top of their screens, where it now says “4G”. It’s a branding move, and not a particularly honest one. About a year ago, AT&T announced it was relabelling its 4G upgrades as 5G Evolution (that’s what the little E stands for).

According to a story in Fierce Wireless by Mike Dano…

AT&T…introduced the “5G Evolution” marketing label to cover markets where it offers advanced LTE network technologies…AT&T has argued that such technologies pave the way for eventual 5G services, though critics have argued that AT&T’s “5G Evolution” marketing moves only serve to sow confusion among consumers.

AT&T’s decision to change its “LTE” indicator to “5G E” has precedence. Sprint branded its WiMAX network as a 4G offering, while T-Mobile (and then later AT&T) both branded HSPA+ as 4G before the arrival of LTE. Those moves were notable considering the wireless industry widely regards LTE as the official 4G technology.

For the record, Sprint had a legitimate reason for characterising its WiMAX service as 4G. At the time, the WiMAX and LTE standards were fighting it out to be the industry’s 4G choice. LTE won by a knockout, but WiMAX was a legitimate contender for the title. The 3G upgrade hyped by T-Mobile was not.

This new tech does mean better 4G service, although AT&T’s carefully worded and highly conditional press release makes it seem more than it is. The 4G upgrade “enables a peak theoretical wireless speed of 400Mbps for capable devices”, according to the company, with an average 40 Mbps “based on real world experiences”.

I presume the real world they’re referring to is Earth, but they didn’t actually say that. Read it as you will.

4G is not 4G without the backhaul to support it

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

“4G is not 4G without the backhaul to support it,” said Sara Kaufman, an analyst who follows mobile operator strategy for Ovum, speaking today at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications conference in San Diego. Mobile carriers have to start by connecting cell sites to fiber networks when they upgrade their networks to 4G speeds using LTE technology.

She predicted robust growth for LTE-based 4G mobile data service in the U.S., but had trouble explaining exactly why. There’s “no convincing evidence of LTE services generating new revenues”, Kaufman said, pointing to another barrier to faster growth for the technology. So far, LTE lacks a killer app or new services that would make it more valuable to subscribers.

Subscriber adoption has been lackluster. Only 2% of Verizon’s customer base currently subscribes to LTE service. Kaufman does not see widespread demand for it, because mobile phone companies have not given consumers a compelling reason to buy a new phone and upgrade their mobile data service.

Even so, she believes LTE deployments are inevitable, citing figures from Ericsson that show smart phones use ten times the data that conventional, dumb phones use, and larger devices – laptops and, presumably, tablets – use ten times as much as smartphones.

Her case for LTE is made by cost savings, not revenue. The result is slower build outs, particularly for carriers that have deployed HSPA+ networks in the interim. “Eventually operators will have to move to LTE,” she concluded, “but there’s no rush to do it.”

Genchowski has an activist agenda for the FCC

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski delivered the opening keynote at the CTIA IT and Entertainment conference today. He offered good of idea of what he has in store for the industry, and gave us a feeling for who he is.

If you take him at face value, the FCC is going to be the wireless industry’s best friend. And the consumer’s best friend. In fact, everybody’s best friend.

Genchowski unveiled what he called the FCC’s mobile broadband agenda:

1. “Unleashing spectrum” for 4G service. He said mobile broadband usage is exploding, and the FCC has to promote more efficient use of spectrum.
2. Remove obstacles to 4G deployment, for example by streamlining the tower siting process.
3. Develop fair rules of the road for the Internet. He said it’s important to ensure the Internet remains open, and that the FCC has to empower entrepreneurs, not lawyers.
4. Empowering consumers by supporting a transparent marketplace. He also said vibrant and competitive marketplace, but he focused on transparency — nominally more information for consumers — as the means to fostering greater competition.

He clearly intends to be an activist FCC chairman. His plans would create a bigger role for the FCC in regulating the telecommunications industry, wired and wireless, telephone, cable and broadband alike.

The better the available information, the better a free marketplace will work in theory. That’s fine. But it’s a short step from requiring better information to trying to actively manage the workings of the market, and then to dictating outcomes.

The point wasn’t lost on Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility and the second keynote speaker. He thanked Genchowski for his stated good intentions, but quickly hit back, saying we (presumably meaning America if not the entire world) need an Internet free of “burdensome regulation”. He said the Internet is open now, and needs to stay that way.

In a genuine debate, it would have been difficult for de la Vega to make the case that the particular corner of the Internet that he is responsible for is open. Like all U.S. mobile carriers, AT&T manages what subscribers can do with their bandwidth, and what devices they can use.

On the other hand, Genchowski would have been equally hard pressed to explain how a more activist regulator will lead to greater market freedom. Creating “fair” rules and “empowering” particular market players is in fact the reverse of letting the market operate.

Even free market economists usually allow that natural monopolies, such as telecoms networks, need some degree of regulation, so there’s clearly a role for the FCC to play. If that role is limited to increasing transparency and improving the ability of consumers to make economically rational choices, Genchowski and de la Vega should have no argument between them.

Will Genchowski so limit himself and his colleagues? I did not leave with the feeling that he sees himself as a simple referee. Rather, his enthusiasm is palpable for the work he laid out. I expect he will lead an FCC that increasingly sees itself as an industry player, at the least co-equal with the private sector, and sitting on the opposing side of the table.

Maybe Genchowski really believes he can foster entrepreneurial growth through federal regulation, rather than creating a bull market for Washington lawyers, lobbyists and special interests. If he does, he needs to explain how.