T-Mobile, 4G and a whole lot of Irony

Wireless carriers are evil. Or at least the big 4 carriers, now the big 3 (that sounds familiar), are definitely evil.I’m sure you’ve heard that wireless carriers T-Mobile and AT&T are merging (FCC willing). Taking #4 T-Mobile and combining it with #2 AT&T, turning them into #1 by number of customers, not necessarily by quality of service. Yet T-Mobile is on their most aggressive ad campaign ever, dishing out blows against AT&T and Verizon, attempting to showcase how T-Mobile’s services are a cut above the rest. They do this with features like Wi-Fi calling, which is the ability to use Wi-Fi to make calls without using minutes from your cell phone plan, and other features like“Nationwide 4G”. Despite the fact that 4G doesn’t actually yet exist (it’s used purely for marketing). Their ads are fine. Good even…if you don’t pay attention to what they’re actually saying and you don’t read the fine print. Let’s dig into a few of T-Mobiles ads while discussing 4G shall we?

Say Goodbye to Video Buffering with T-Mobile
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NpO1TYKFS0&feature=player_embedded You may have seen this T-Mobile ad on TV at some point during the NBA Playoffs. It’s a pretty standard T-Mobile ad at this point. Nice, a little funny, makes a point. But does it really make the point they’re looking for?

First we need to talk about the different technologies behind the what some have called the “4G wars”. The guy in the commercial is clearly on an iPhone at the beginning, which supports HSPA+ technology (3G). Guess what kind of network T-Mobile’s 4G network supports. If you said HSPA+ then you are correct.

Different generations of networks (the ‘G’ in 3G and 4G stands for Generation; 3rd Generation, 4th Generation etc.) are differentiated by speeds. 4G is faster than 3G. Simple right? Not really. T-Mobile claims that their HSPA+ can reach 4G speeds, which is actually a lie. To date, no wireless carries have ever reached the speeds defined as 4G on their public networks. T-Mobile claims that since their competition is calling their networks 4G and T-Mobile’s network can reach the speeds of their competitors networks, that T-Mobile’s own network is obviously 4G. Sprint uses a technology called WiMAX which it dubs ‘4G’. Verizon and AT&T meanwhile, use a technology called LTE (Long Term Evolution) which each company dubs 4G. On top of that, AT&T says that their beefed up HSPA+ network (3G) is also 4G.

Here’s the kicker. None of the technologies I just mentioned are really 4G. It was originally thought that both WiMAX and LTE would eventually be able to reach speeds to qualify as 4G. It is now known that neither can. As a side note, LTE Advanced (the big brother of LTE) could theoretically reach 4G speeds, but this technology isn’t passed testing stages at this point.

So every major wireless carrier in the U.S. has been outright lying to their customers? Yes. Now my statement about them being evil isn’t so far fetched is it?

Texting
Texting has exploded in that last several years to be sure. It’s cheaper than calling in many cases, It’s easy, does require fast thumbs but no skill in spelling whatsoever. With this kind of popularity you’d think that carriers would want to make money off of this, but how could they possibly be making money with such cheap rates? Here’s how:

Have you ever wondered why each text message can only be 160 characters long? Well, wonder no more. You’re cell phone must be connected to a cell tower in order to receive call. So whenever a cell tower is in range your phone is connected. The cell towers and your phone are always exchanging information. Information approximately the size of something like…a text message. The interesting thing is that the carriers are charging quite a bit more for texting than it actually costs. There is a great article on this over at Spoiled Techie. You can find it here.

Fine Print
There’s another T-Mobile ad that has the T-Mobile lady talking with a guy who has the “fine print (a guy in a suit with Alvin and The Chipmunks-like voice) following him around always reminding him not to use too many minutes, send too many texts, or use too much date or he will pay overage charges. She then offers him T-Mobiles $79.99 “Unlimited Data” plan. He then ditches his old plan with fine print for the new one. I find this commercial incredibly ironic. At the end of the commercial just as it says “Truly Unlimited” there is, believe it or not, fine print at the bottom of the commercial which reads: “Includes 2GB of per month of Full-Speed Data”.

Two words: Bandwidth throttling.

Bandwidth Throttling usually occurs when a small percentage of customers are using so much data that it slows down data speeds for a much larger group of customers. The wireless carrier throttles the speeds of the small group to help even out speeds for the larger group. So you may have an unlimited plan with T-Mobile, you get 2GB of data at their ‘4G’ speeds, but after that your speeds could be throttled, not even reaching T-Mobile’s definition of 4G.

Now that, is ironic.

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4 thoughts on “T-Mobile, 4G and a whole lot of Irony

  1. KatySue Pillsbury says:

    You forgot to mention that the girl in the newer ads has a gorgeuos wardorbe, I’m sure you noticed…..;-)
    So, let me get this staight, all this hype about 4G and 3G and 4G doens’t even exist??? That is just wrong!

    • Reagan W. says:

      The thing is, 3G does exist, 4G doesn’t. But what the carriers are calling 4G is still faster than 3G, it’s just not fast enough to technically be 4G. Confused yet?

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