ITU lays down law: WiMAX 2, LTE-Advanced are 4G, everyone else is a buster

Fleshing out what constitutes a 3G versus a 4G wireless technology is like trying to objectively quantify whether Coke or Pepsi is the superior beverage -- but for what it's worth, the UN's ITU is widely recognized as the closest thing we have to a final word (on the Gs, that is, not the colas). They've just issued a press release stating that of six technologies nominated for IMT-Advanced (the formal name for 4G) certification, just two have emerged victorious: 802.16m WiMAX 2 -- also known as WirelessMAN-Advanced -- and LTE-Advanced. That would leave Sprint, Verizon, and everyone else currently deploying WiMAX and LTE technically false in advertising their latest-generation services as "4G," though with so many technologies crowding the 3G space, we can't necessarily blame them; heck, even EDGE and CDMA2000 without EV-DO technically qualify as 3G in the eyes of the ITU, so yeah, the situation is really just as muddled as ever. For what it's worth, neither 802.16m nor LTE-Advanced are live anywhere in the world -- and they aren't expected to be for some time -- so whether you like it or not, the UN says you're still living a 3G existence no matter where you're located. So close! Follow the break for the ITU's release.

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ITU paves way for next-generation 4G mobile technologies

ITU-R IMT-Advanced 4G standards to usher new era of mobile broadband communications

Geneva, 21 October 2010 - ITU's Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) has completed the assessment of six candidate submissions for the global 4G mobile wireless broadband technology, otherwise known as IMT-Advanced. Harmonization among these proposals has resulted in two technologies, "LTE-Advanced1" and "WirelessMAN-Advanced2" being accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced, qualifying them as true 4G technologies.

In its recent meeting in Chongqing, China, ITU-R Working Party 5D, which is charged with defining the IMT-Advanced global 4G technologies, reached a milestone in its work by deciding on these technologies for the first release of IMT-Advanced. In the ITU-R Report, which will be published shortly, the LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced technologies were each determined to have successfully met all of the criteria established by ITU-R for the first release of IMT-Advanced. The Report is expected to be approved by ITU Member States at the ITU-R Study Group 5 meeting in Geneva in late November 2010.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said, "ICTs and broadband networks have become vital national infrastructure - similar to transport, energy and water networks - but with an impact that promises to be even more powerful and far-reaching. These key enhancements in wireless broadband can drive social and economic development, and accelerate progress towards achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs."

"While the goals set for IMT-Advanced were considered by some to be very high, I am very pleased to see that all stakeholders in the mobile wireless industry have risen to meet the challenge," said Valery Timofeev, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, in expressing his appreciation for this worldwide effort. "I look forward to the ITU-R Recommendation for IMT-Advanced that will have a profound effect on the development of state-of-the-art technologies for 4G mobile broadband."

Following the success of the ITU-defined IMT-2000 (3G) systems, ITU-R launched the IMT-Advanced (4G) initiative with its strategic IMT future vision in 2002. It subsequently established the services, spectrum and performance requirements for IMT-Advanced as well as a detailed evaluation process. In an on-going partnership with the industry, the six proposals received by ITU in October 2009 were individually subjected to a rigorous assessment, supported by the work of independent external evaluation groups that had been established around the world. Industry consensus and harmonization fostered by ITU-R among these six proposals have resulted in the consolidation of the proposals into the two agreed IMT-Advanced technologies. These technologies will now move into the final stage of the IMT-Advanced process, which provides for the development in early 2012 of an ITU-R Recommendation specifying the in-depth technical standards for these radio technologies.

IMT-Advanced (4G) provides a global platform on which to build the next-generations of interactive mobile services that will provide faster data access, enhanced roaming capabilities, unified messaging and broadband multimedia.

Stephen Blust, Director of Radio Standards, AT&T, and Chairman of the ITU-R Working Party 5D, also expressed his thanks to all the contributors in industry, government and ITU who have made the IMT-Advanced process successful.

The close partnership between ITU-R members and the global wireless industry in the work on IMT-Advanced clearly establishes these technologies as the pre-eminent ITU-sanctioned 4G mobile wireless broadband solution for information, communications and entertainment.

A layman's perspective of the IMT-Advanced process and plan can be found here: