But This 3G Is Super!
By Mike Masnick, Mon Jan 03 23:15:00 GMT 2005

As people are realizing that 3G offerings have been overhyped all this time, a group of companies are teaming up on "super 3G" to keep people focused on the future, rather than what's not living up to expectations right now.

Wireless standards are certainly not strangers to exaggerated claims and repeated failures to live up to expectations. However, the industry has managed to do an amazing sleight of hand trick just about every time this has happened. After promises of the perfect mobile broadband solution prove to be a bit more theoretical than practical, along come promises of some new technology, just beyond the horizon, that promises will be the one that actually does everything.

Each new generation of mobile broadband technology is expected to be perfect, and the press tends to lap it up. The carriers, who have been spinning this story about 3G for years (even when they were using 2.5G/2.75G technologies to stand in for 3G), seem to have been taken by surprise by the press's love affair with WiMAX. In order to respond, there's been a growing number of stories about accelerated HSDPA implementations that promise something of an upgrade to 3G offerings that, while ubiquitous, just don't offer the speeds that most users are getting used to on standard broadband networks. There have also been stories about super-fast wireless data transfers "in a laboratory environment" to keep people thinking that they might actually see something similar to those speeds by the end of the decade.

The latest move, however, seems mostly like a big publicity stunt to try to steal away some attention from offerings like WiMAX. Late last week, 26 companies in the wireless space, including operators like NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone and equipment vendors like Siemens and Alcatel, announced plans to create a new high speed wireless standard dubbed "Super 3G." While it's a bit surprising they didn't just decide to label it 4G (whether or not it actually met any definitions some had set out for 4G), it's clearly been designed to show that the cellular side of the mobile broadband world knows they need to pull another rabbit out of their collective hats, and hope that this one actually lives up to the expectations they've set for it.

Of course, they may find it difficult to do so. This is just the very beginning of the process, and it seems nearly impossible these days for any standards making process to go smoothly. Most are delayed (sometimes indefinitely) by squabbles between different companies over whose patents will get into the standard -- and whose competing standards will the new standard upset in the marketplace. Even on the timeline this group has set, with a spec set by 2007, it's unlikely anyone would see a commercial deployment of this completely non-existent technology for many years -- by which point the competitive landscape will have changed. Unfortunately, the industry always seems to be shooting for the wrong target. That is, companies look at what people are doing with wired broadband now, and target to offer a similar mobile offering in the future. The problem is that the wired offerings have sped up, and with it, the applications and services that people are used to using. It's a constant game of catchup, and other wireless broadband offerings outside of the cellular world are clearly trying to leapfrog the market. No matter how "super" this version of 3G is, by the time it comes out, it's likely it will fail to live up to the expectations that are being set today.