4G is Meaningless

by Colin Berkshire

Learning to shape a question is an important way to learn how to persuasively pitch things. Take cellular 3G and 4G for example.

Verizon likes so shape the question of comparing their 4G network to the 4G networks of their competitors. Of course, because if you accept that as the question than you will make a decision based on biased information.

You see, the Verizon 3G network is really, really bad. Like under one gigabit in the best case bad. It’s the slowest 3G technology still in use: CDMA Rev A 1xrtt.

Other competitors run their 3G networks at speeds of up to 45 megabits, or roughly 50X faster than Verizon even can.

So by cleverly defining the question of who has the biggest 4G network they knock out all of the 3G networks that actually outperform the Verizon 4G network.

3G out performs 4G? Yes, in many cases this is true. In Asia (and in the US) it is quite common to get real-world speeds of 10~45 megabits on 3G networks. This is possible because the philosophy is to have lots and lots of towers, so that towers aren’t overloaded. I routinely get 10+ megabits per second on 3G.

But on Verizon in the US I feel lucky to get 4 megabits. Heck, anymore I feel lucky to even be able to watch a YouTube video using Verizon. I often see “LTE” and have speeds of 0.3 megabits on Verizon anymore. This is because their towers are hideously overloaded and they have not installed enough back-haul capacity.

So as people start to talk about 5G (which is a decade or more away) be careful how the question is being shaped. Just remember that a well design 3G network will vastly surpass a Verizon-designed 4g LTE network.

The correct way to phrase the question is: “What is a typical busy-hour speed?”

If I could get a reliable 2 megabits on Verizon and be able to watch YouTube videos I would be thrilled. I don’t need Verizon to deliver a gazillion-megabits. I just need them to be able to stream a simple video.