Bill calls for wireless carriers to define '4G' service

All those ads from wireless carriers touting phones with "4G speeds" sound impressive. But a California lawmaker says there's not enough clarity on exactly what that term means in terms of the data speed consumers get, the Washington Post reports.

Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo introduced a bill June 22 that would mandate disclosure of data speeds at the point of purchase (providers' speeds can vary from region to region). Her legislation, the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act, would also require the Federal Communications Commission to provide information on data speed and prices so consumers will be better informed when they shop for data plans.

Technically, as GCN reported back in January, fourth-generation broadband wireless doesn't even exist yet, even though the four largest carriers are all advertising their devices as 4G.

The International Telecommunication Union defines 4G as a downlink speed of 1 gigabit/sec for slow-moving or stationary users, and none of the major carriers meets that criterion. In December 2010, ITU decided to allow carriers to use the term 4G to describe "evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third-generation systems."

The media reform advocacy group Free Press applauded Eshoo's bill in a statement issued June 22 but added that "we will not see the benefit of improvements in transparency unless they are paired with meaningful competition and choice in the wireless market."

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