Is 4G capable of delivering a noticeably snappier service? In a lab, absolutely. But as a whole, are the numerous 4G technologies appreciably faster than 3G in all areas? Sometimes, but many factors influence this, and if you take coverage into account the answer is oftentimes no. Is 4G able to function on its own for voice transmission? In almost all cases the answer is no, and 4G is only used for data, while voice is transmitted and received on legacy networks.
Itâs no wonder that 4G, until now, hasnât felt like fourth-generation wireless technology that delivers a more compelling user experience than 3G. Today LTE infrastructure buildouts and device portfolios are finally catching up to the 4G hype, which is why Apple, the first king of mobility, waited until the 4G fracas died down to release a horsein the race with the LTE-enabled iPhone 5. Even still, can a new iPhone use 4G for simultaneous voice and data? Not if itâs on a CDMA network (Verizon, Sprint), yet this functionality is possible on a bevy of 3G phones running on GSM and CDMA networks.
Another bad example is the Android ecosystem. Whereas the Apple logo communicates stability, ease of use and a well-defined user experience, the Android logo communicates one or two things consistently: less expensive and more hackable than Apple. Since the Android development and device manufacturing communities havenât standardized things like an experience index or stability rating, the Android experience can mean many different things. For consumers with a lower-end Android device, that experience can be terribly frustrating and drive churn and negative social messaging. Unlike an MPG or horsepower rating for a car, there is no way for customers to know if device X will allow function Y unless they spend a lot of time reading technical literature and smartphone forums. As a result the value wireless operators place on membership in the Apple club is in the billions.
Movement in a positive direction has begun, whether prompted by an innate desire for innovation or a response to pressure from over-the-top (OTT) competition. This year several communications service providers (CSPs) announced a collaboration to drive an enhanced mobile messaging platform intended to compete with OTT social messaging options. Combining the strengths of both SMS/MSS and social messaging, the platform is called joyn, and is the public-facing brand of the GSMAâs Rich Communications Suite-enhanced (RCS-e) framework. CSP partners who have signed on to leverage joyn include Vodafone, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom.
The GSMA sees RCS-e as a compelling business proposition that offers ânew ways to use existing assets and capabilities to deliver high quality and innovative communications services.â By monetizing the framework with the joyn logo, CSPs âwill be strengthening their relationship with their customers and harnessing further revenue opportunities from advanced personal communications,â says the association.
Like SMS or voice, joyn communicates an important message about enhanced communication: âItâs just there, it just works.â This represents an important shift, because it monetizes a standard in the right way: wrapped around service experience, not technical capability. On the joyn homepage this point is reiterated: âMobile network operators all over the world are inspired by the great communication potential that joyn offers their customers. As a result theyâre working together to establish interoperabilityâin other words, to ensure âitâs just there and it just worksâ for everyone, no matter what network they use.â
Niek Jan van Damme, Deutsche Telekom Board Member, wrote of his belief in the standard and its benefits at the end of August: âJoyn is especially easy to use. Customers donât have to worry which of their contacts uses what service and who can be reached how. âjoynâ makes the cellphoneâs phone book smarter and, above all, the services function across carrier boundaries. Without any installation, without a login and without the need to move between different applications.â