In 2010, Ecoweb (and Econet subsidiary) was first to come out with the message that they had launched a 4G internet service. The company had just launched its mobile WiMax platform April 2010; a first in Zimbabwe. Of course consumers had no idea what this 4G thing was. The real benefit a lot of people saw wasn’t the speed that the new generation was supposed to offer, it was the mobility.
Eventually, more operators emerged with 4G (4th generation) internet ‘service’ offerings. They say ‘network’ instead of ‘service’ and use that to argue that technically the network is 4G. They are very correct, technically. The equipment they have deployed is indeed 4G. But it stops at the technical level of things. For you the consumer 4G is just another new fancy marketing tag and you should treat it as that. Ignore it. Beyond ‘fancy’ it’s nothing much for you.
It surely doesn’t mean anything in terms of speed. There are a dozen more factors that ensure you don’t get the speeds the new 4G service is supposed to offer. Your equipment limitations for example (whether this is a phone, a dongle or other form of customer premise equipment), the network backbone in use by the operator, the number of subscribers sharing the link to the operator at a given time, the weather and the objects between you and the base station just to name a few things.
The operators won’t explain this part of the equation. In the adverts it’s just “We’ve 4G available”, or “We have true 4G”, or “We have 3.9G” or just press releases that so and so company has deployed a 4G network.
The labels are confusing and the consumer, the audience of the advertising, has no idea what guarantees or minimum performance they should expect. Sure, the customer associates the 4G tag with more speed and increased connection stability. Internet providers know this and try to take full advantage. Whether this works or not is of course another discussion. I know for certain it doesn’t work for a lot of people I know and, if anything, triggers their marketing-hogwash defense systems.
We have used about all the 4G services that have been advertised locally. Besides being just another connectivity option on the market there’s nothing screaming 4G about them. We’re yet to experience any mobile wireless connection that will go beyond 1mbps in terms of download performance.
So, What is 4G? What is 3G? The answer is the same we recommend to anyone that spots a new shiny internet service advert; It’s marketing buzzwords, so stop trying to understand what those labels mean. Look beyond the labels and the promises. Consider the actual speed and stability and see if it meets your needs, and the only way to consider these is to test the service before you buy. And if they won’t let you test it first, you probably need to take your business elsewhere.
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