What to expect from 4G (LTE) when 3G failed to meet expectations after 7 long years

As much as I’d want to let you know of the technical details of it all, I can only speak in generics.

At the end of this article you should be able to answer the following:

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What’s the difference between 3G and 4G (LTE)?
  2. What happens to 3G devices when the telecom networks upgrade to 4G?
  3. Should we pay the price for the expensive 4G connectivity?
  4. Should we upgrade our devices to 4G/LTE capable ones?

With a little Googling I found out that 4G technically never exists (as of writing). It’s because the standards group (I forgot what they are called, IMT or something) decided that those claiming to be 4G today did not pass their specifications. Regardless, they became lenient on this standard just to differentiate the faster mobile telecommunication system. Under this definition, LTE (Long Term Evolution – yeah what a name) and WiMax2 (not the first wimax generation) fall under the toned-down “4G.”

The difference is that 3G is more inclined to greater voice quality while 4G is keen on delivering faster internet data. 4G offers up to 3 to 10x faster mobile data speed and claims that you’ll experience smoother video streaming even in high-definition (imagine no buffering).

Of course this is not possible without the telecom companies establishing new 4G infrastructures. Billions of pesos (maybe dollars, I have yet to check) have been/are being spent by Smart and Globe for this LTE network alone.

Looking back, 3G has been introduced in the Philippines since 2005. From then until now, those of you who have used broadband sticks for their laptops or browsed the web on their phones (while stationary or mobile) are witnesses on how this technology essentially sucks. Seven years and look at where we are now – areas with dead GSM (let’s call this 1G) signal, barely a good 100 kbps speed while on the road. It’s ugly.

Look, when you buy a 3G phone, or most likely the smartphone you have since 2008, already has built-in 3G antenna that’s capable of speeds from 3mbps to 15 mbps. Did Globe or Smart ever capitalized on that? Did they achieve that speed? NO. I bet your device never even reached 1mbps at most times.

But that’s not actually to be blamed on the telecom companies (both here and abroad). I have read somewhere that the 3G infrastructure posed this limitation no matter how much they upgrade their networks. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it is.

So as 4G arrives, that limitation is overcome. But not without the high price.

So what happens to your 3G device as both Globe and Smart starts upgrading to 4G? Nothing. Do not fear obsolescence just yet. In fact, 3G is in it for the long term TOO. This is because of the backwards compatibility of the 4G standard. That means if you’re not in an LTE-covered area, but have 3G coverage, your 4G device will switch to 3G (fortunately or unfortunately depends on your circumstance).

Should we pay the price? “We” being the average mid-income consumer, should not. At least not yet. It’s too expensive, and worse, it is capped. Picture this:

The 3G (wimax) plan I used to have offers an unlimited data. That means I can download maybe 30-50 gigabyte (or more) worth of apps, songs, ebooks, movies in a month. But it will also mean my PC is open 24/7 and my torrent client is smartly lined up and organized as downloading will be very very slow. Compare that to 4G (LTE) with a monthly cap of at most 15gigabyte but with 10 times the download speed. You can download 5-6 movies in 3 hours and you’re a goner for the rest of the month. You’ll be stuck to their minimum speed (maybe 200kbps?) until your cap is reset the next month.

That’s a choice between 3 hours of ecstasy or 30 days mediocre connectivity (I like using ‘mediocre’ because depending on how you say it, “joke” can come out of it).

Should we upgrade to 4G/LTE device? This of course is extremely based on your capacity to buy or pay. We all want what’s new out there!! Don’t make me start with the iPhone 5!

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Globe, you broke my heart

You kind of have a monopoly here, Globe. This isn’t like Starbucks wherein, if I wasn’t satisfied with the service or the price of their coffee, I could just walk away and run to Gloria Jean’s instead, and still serve that almost same amount gratification. Sure I could buy an iPhone from local online sellers. There are lots of them here. And they’re even cheaper. But here’s why I chose Globe:

  1. For some weird reason it’s the only network that emits signal this part of Pasig. So that leaves me without choice.
  2. If I buy a unit locally, let’s say, a 16gig iphone 4s for P30K, I’d still have to subscribe to a data plan. The cheapest of which is a Plan P999. So, with a little math, taking into consideration a 2-year span I would have to spend:

P30,000 – handset
P23,976 – unlimited data plan (that’s P999 x 24 months)
Total = P53,976

This doesn’t even include prepaid load expenses (P300x 24 months = P7200, which should give me a grand total of P61,176)

Whereas, Globe offering its hmmm….mid-range price for the 16gig handset:

P1799 x 24 months = P43,176
Cashout = P4800
Total = P47,976 (this includes consumable load of P800, plus useful freebies)

POTENTIAL SAVINGS in 2 years: P13,200 (plus you get to call your loved ones every time!)

You can do the same math with SMART but Globe will still turn out to be cheaper by a few thousand bucks. So what did I just prove here? It proves that, for a practical guy like me, I’d choose only the best offer.  So this is why I’m a bit of a Globe slave. I am not rich. The very few pesos I can save mean a lot.

So why an iPhone? I could have availed of the cheaper Nokia phones. A blackberry could have been cheaper and also in style. But I’m just a big Apple fan. I have used an iMac G3 and an iMac G4 (before intel came). I’ve used a macmini, and always crave for a macbook pro. I owned a first generation iPad before it launched in the Philippines. I’m just a sucker for anything Apple.

Here’s when you broke my heart, Globe. When I applied for the Globe handset online on Dec. 22, 2011 (hey that was still last year!), I was only contacted January 7. But I was still hopeful and excited. On January 10, I received a call saying that my handset was ready and that it will be delivered on January 14. But when that day came, I received a call from Globe saying, they won’t be delivering the phone because I was scheduled for a 3rd week delivery. I couldn’t wait. I followed up every day since. And just today, I was told by Globe that they don’t have an inkling when my phone will be delivered.

To sum up, that’s from a 2nd week delivery to 3rd week delivery to “we can’t say when” delivery. C’mon Globe. You can do better than that.

I understand that there is low or no supply and there is high demand. I could imagine the chaos caused by people like me who would insist that you deliver. But understand too, that when you can’t deliver, you break a heart.

…but after all is said and done, I would still be waiting. Helplessly. But hoping—to no longer be a slave.