Can T-Mobile’s Network Match its ‘4G’ Marketing?

Lots of huffin’ and puffin’ in the wireless world today about T-Mobile’s decision to go all-in on the marketing side and call its HSPA+ network 4G, and not just the weak-tea 4G-like description it had used previously. While we like the cheekiness of a video ad that depicts the AT&T 3G network as the non-LeBron of wirelessness (we may just be fans of cheekiness, after all), we’re not so sure that T-Mobile is going to be able to keep pace with the other 4G entrants, especially when it comes down to what counts — raw speed and capacity.

On the speeds side, T-Mobile execs always seem careful to never attach an advertised average speed to their HSPA+ deployment — instead they always like to talk about theoretical peak speeds, which are relevant only if you are standing directly underneath a cell tower at all times. In an exercise we’re sure will be replayed in many other locales, the folks at Digital Trends did a quickie side-by-side speedtest between Clearwire and T-Mobile in Portland, and the pink network was found a bit lacking. And that test didn’t even compare the data caps for the respective plans, an arena where Clearwire and its WiMAX partner Sprint will be hard to top given the duo’s staggering spectrum advantage.

While Sidecut remains officially on the sidelines in the whole what-is-and-what-isn’t 4G discussion — our quick take is that 4G does make sense as a marketing label for the newer faster networks, and that in a street fight we’ll bet on Verizon’s marketing budget in any battle with the ITU — we are inherently interested in things you can actually measure and prove, like download speeds, upload speeds, and perhaps most important of all to the end user — how many bits you get per buck.

If you’ve been paying attention here you’ve seen increased activity from Sidecut on the measurement front, and for us it’s only a start. As service providers launch these competing, faster networks and newer, more powerful devices, figuring out who delivers what, where, and for how much, is going to be of paramount importance going forward. If you agree, stay tuned. The 4G measurement battles have really only just begun.

(Cheeky video clip courtesy of T-Mobile)

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