HSPA+ hullabaloo as Cincinnati Bell claims to launch ‘4G’

7 Jul 2011

United States regional telco Cincinnati Bell – which provides a full suite of telecoms services to residential and business customers in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana – has announced that it has upgraded its wireless network to support the HSPA+ platform. The new network will reportedly offer peak download speeds of up to 21Mbps, with corresponding upload speeds of up to 5.7Mbps. Cincinnati Bell claims that, based on field trials conducted in April 2011, the network offers speeds that are twice as fast as those offered by rival wireless operators, and three times faster than speeds offered by its own 3G network. As a result, Cincinnati Bell is marketing the service as ‘4G’ – despite the upgrade falling outside of the accepted definition of a fourth generation network – following in the footsteps of a number of national wireless operators. Mike Vanderwoude, vice president and general manager of wireless for Cincinnati Bell, commented: ‘Every day the people of Greater Cincinnati use wireless phones to share news with friends and family and stream music and video. With our new 4G wireless network, they can do all that and more at speeds that are faster than ever’. Cincinnati Bell’s HSPA+ network has coverage of Greater Cincinnati, whilst the firm has agreements in place with as-yet-unnamed national wireless companies to enable customers to access ‘4G’ outside of Cincinnati. At end-December 2010 Cincinnati Bell reported 509,000 mobile customers, down from 533,100 one year earlier.

TeleGeography notes that Cincinnati Bell is not the first US cellco to market high speed wireless broadband services as ‘4G’. T-Mobile USA and AT&T also market their HSPA+ networks as 4G, whereas Sprint resells Clearwire’s WiMAX service as 4G. To date only Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS use Long Term Evolution (LTE) for their 4G services, although AT&T is scheduled to launch its own LTE network later this summer. Last month US Congresswoman Anna Eshoo proposed the ‘Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act’, in an effort to encourage transparency within the wireless market. A statement issued by Eshoo said: ‘The wireless industry has invested billions to improve service coverage, reliability and data speeds, and consumer demand for 4G is expected to explode. But consumers need to know the truth about the speeds they’re actually getting. My legislation is simple – it will establish guidelines for understanding what 4G speed really is, and ensure that consumers have all the information they need to make an informed decision’. If passed by parliament, Eshoo’s bill will require that all operators provide point of sale information regarding guaranteed minimum data speeds, geographic coverage and the platform that is being used to provide 4G. The bill will also require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to measure the speed and price of 4G data services from the country’s top ten mobile carriers in terms of subscribers, and present the information to the general public. Eshoo is the top-placed Democrat on the House’s Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

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