Size does matter - as far as US mobile carriers are concerned anyway and three of America's biggest are making competing claims that their network reach is the biggest. Martyn Warwick reports.
In a wrangle reminiscent of the arcane theological disputes of the Middle Ages when various competing religious houses disputed the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin or whether Jesus Christ owned a purse, T-Mobile USA and AT&T Mobility are chopping logic over who has the biggest 4G network in America.
The debate would make rather more sense if the principals involved would actually make plain exactly what they think constitutes a 4G network in the first place. As it is they are comparing apples with pears.
T-Mobile USA says it has "America's Largest 4G Network" because its HSPA+ infrastructure covers a potential subscriber base of 215 million. Meanwhile, AT&T Mobility reckons its "4G" network (which is a melange of HSPA+ and LTE technology) is potentially available to 250 million people.
Back in February, AT&T began a campaign in which it claimed that it owns the biggest 4G network in the US. Then T-Mobile began inviting consumers to "test drive America's largest 4G network."
AT&T has taken T-Mobile to task for this and points out that its network covers a bigger potential population than does its rival.
This has been like a red rag to a bull as far as T-Mobile is concerned. In a statement T-Mobile writes that it "currently operates America's Largest 4G Network, reaching well over 215 million people in 225 markets, which, we believe, makes us the largest. It is important to note that having enhanced backhaul in place is necessary to deliver a 4G experience.
AT&T is touting the reach of their network, but we don't believe they have sufficient backhaul to justify the assertion that they are larger. We believe T-Mobile reaches more Americans with a 4G experience."
AT&T's riposte is, "The facts are we have the nation's largest 4G network covering nearly 250 million people with LTE and HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul." So, yah, boo, sucks!
All very edifying and no doubt of great interest to those in both telcos who think that ordinary people actually care, which they probably don't. Subscribers want good, robust inexpensive service and care little for the internecine squabbling between two service providers over what is little more than technological gibberish to the average consumer. Still, T-Mobile and AT&T have the money, time and determination to waste on a pointless argument and that's just what they will do.
Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless, the third-biggest player in the US mobile market has now joined in. It says it has the biggest "4G LTE network" in America which "covers two-thirds of the US population and more than 200 million LTE POPs.
Verizon's statement concludes."If you check the US census site, it will say there are about 314 million in the US at this time. We will cover 260 million of them with LTE by the end of this year."
Sprint Nextel, the Number Four provider in the US market is holding itself aloof from the spat. It does have what it calls a "4G" service but it runs over Clearwire's mobile WiMAX infrastructure and technology and covers a potential subscriber base of 150 million.
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