Mea culpa. Sort of.
Apparently, many people weren't happy – with the ITU and my story.
Buried in a Dec. 6 press release heradling the opening of its World Radiocommunication Seminar 2010, the ITU noted:
Following a detailed evaluation against stringent technical and operational criteria, ITU has determined that "LTE-Advanced" and "WirelessMAN-Advanced" should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced. As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as "4G", although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed. The detailed specifications of the IMT-Advanced technologies will be provided in a new ITU-R Recommendation expected in early 2012.
No excuses – I missed it.
However, ITU hasn't exactly blessed current 4G U.S. networks as "4G," either, as these reports intimate. The organization has done more fudging here than Bernie Madoff.
First, as you can read, the ITU stands by its initial evaluation. It still consideres only two networks, LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN Advanced (the next generation of Verizon's LTE and Sprint's WiMax service, respectively) to be deserving of its highest "IMT-Advanced" rating. (IMT simply stands for International Mobile Telecommunications.)
Second, ITU admits to "4G" being undefined, although it attempted to – and should unequivocally – define what the term means. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
Third, there is this fuzzy phrase: "'4G' [ITU's quotes]…may [my italics] also be applied for forerunners of these technologies…" Do they mean "may" as in "you have permission to" or "may" as in the conditional "maybe not"? From my reading of the entire statement, ITU seems to be grudgingly allowing folks to call their speedier networks "4G," but these networks also may only be forerunners of technologies the organization considers to be 4G and, therefore, they might not be "4G," since it admits the term "4G" is undefined.
Or, to quote Woody Allen in Love & Death: "We can say it. I don't know what it means, but we can say it."
Then, the wishy-washy ITU put off definitive 4G-or-not-4G determinations for another year. But by that time, the market and the current may-or-may-not-be 4G networks – however you define them – should, literally, get up to IMT-Advanced speed, and this whole "what is and what isn't 4G" point could be moot.
Most folks will consider this report and discussions of comparative theoretical and actual data throughput speeds an exercise in academic and grammatical semantics – and outside of testing labs and defending my bruised reporters ego, they'd be right. All that really matters here is if you're getting the speed boost and performance over 3G the "4G" marketing hype promises. If you are and you're happy, be fruitful and multiple and pay no further attention.
In the meantime, I'm sorry I brought the whole thing up.