Monday, September 07, 2015

On 3G, 4G and LTE

Airtel has become the first telecom service provider to launch 4G-LTE services in India.

As expected of any 'early bird', the company has been aggresively promoting this with a tagline - "If your network is faster, we will pay your mobile bills for life.". This, coupled with a free offer to switch to a 4G SIM and avail higher network speeds at 3G rates, has been attracting customers in droves.

The process is quite simple for mobile phones. You just slip in a new SIM, send a text message to designated number and you are hooked to the 4G networks, wherever available. For devices that cannot sent text messages to Airtel (eg. iPads), the activation process takes a couple of hours.

I liked the simplicity of the process. On top of this, the new SIM cards do not have to be clipped to fit into a smartphone or tab. It now comes pre-punched in three sizes - normal, mini and micro. All you need to do is to push out the size that fits your device -- no more of those crude clipping and crimping tools.

Physical processes apart, the Airtel 4G campaign has one glaring omission -- none of the adverts put a number to their claims. Instead of clearly stating that connection speeds are above a certain threshold, they just rely on the general sloth in internet speeds that we have now come to take for granted in India.

So what exactly is '4G speed' supposed to be?

The benchmarks set by UN-ITU clearly states that 4G should have speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 1Gbps. Actual speeds are anything but dazzling. In the Airtel showroom, the maximum speed I could get was 11 Mbps. Back home, the maxmum speeds dropped to 5Mbps. Then again the 4G connections were tenuous at best. The signals received by the mobiles seemed to keep changing, making the devices switch frequently between 3G and 4G

No wonder the wireless pipedream is also called Long Term Evolution (LTE). We still have a long-long way to go!

Speeds across the Gs (Source - 


* Airtel 4G -
* 4G-LTE Status in India -
* ITU paves way for 4G technologies -
* TechAdvisor - difference between 4G and LTE -

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