ITU Gets “4G” Pushback from IEEE 802

The IEEE 802 Executive Committee today approved correspondence asking ITU for clarification on its use of the term “4G” in an October 21 press release on IMT-Advanced. The main concern is ITU’s characterization of IMT-Advanced as “true 4G.” IEEE 802 observes that some in industry and government use 4G to mean mobile broadband technologies other than IMT-Advanced. Consequently, IEEE 802 says, ITU’s announcement has caused such users to be on the receiving end of “public response” (i.e., negative publicity), and could cause “significant disruption” to existing technical activities and documentation. It also observes that such use of 4G seems inconsistent with ITU-R Working Party 5D’s prior consideration of the term.

The correspondence approved is a toned-down version of one originally considered by the IEEE 802 Executive Committee at its November 12 meeting in Dallas. Then, some felt the language was too strong, and could be upsetting to some not only in ITU but also in IEEE.  If this was, say, just a misunderstanding in ITU’s Media Relations department, that version would then come across as overbearing. There was also concern about casting the correspondence as coming from IEEE instead of IEEE 802. There is a procedure in IEEE to do that, and since IEEE is a Sector Member of ITU-R there is good argument to do so, but the decision would have to be pushed up to the IEEE Standards Association Board of Governors. There would be additional delay with no guarantee of approval.

As background, this process started with a November 8 contribution from a representative of the WiMAX Forum to IEEE 802.16, which was revised on November 10. From 802.16 it went to IEEE 802.18, IEEE 802’s regulatory group, which brought it to the Executive Committee on November 12. Though there was no vote then, there was agreement to submit a revised document to an Executive Committee e-mail approval process, which culminated today. Now, IEEE 802 waits for ITU’s clarification. It wouldn’t mind a broader interpretation as well.

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