Lawmaker introduces bill to verify '4G' marketing claims

A lawmaker introduced a bill that would require wireless carriers to spell out the guaranteed minimum data speed that their networks will deliver when they market their services as "4G."

Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-Calif.) introduced the legislation, the "Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act," to "ensure that consumers have complete and accurate information about the speed of 4G service before committing to a plan," her office said in a statement.

The bill would require wireless carriers provide to consumers at the point of sale and in all billing materials a host of information about the services they market as 4G, including guaranteed minimum data speed, network reliability, coverage area maps and pricing. Additionally, carriers would have to provide information on the underlying technology they are using to provide 4G service and network conditions that may impact the speed of applications and services used on the network.

The legislation also requires the FCC to evaluate the speed and price of 4G wireless data service provided by the top ten U.S. wireless carriers so that consumers can compare the various services.

The bill received a cool reaction from the CTIA. "We are concerned that the bill proposes to add a new layer of regulation to a new and exciting set of services, while ignoring the fact that wireless is an inherently complex and dynamic environment in which network speeds can vary depending on a wide variety of factors," Jot Carpenter, the CTIA's vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. "Congress should resist calls to impose new regulations and instead focus on the real issue, which is making sure that America's wireless carriers have sufficient spectrum to lead the world in the race to deploy 4G services."

By introducing the legislation, Eschoo is wading into the contentious debate over how wireless carriers market their next-generation wireless services. The debate over what is or is not 4G erupted last year when T-Mobile USA began calling its HSPA+ network a 4G network. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), which originally chastised T-Mobile for doing so, has since started calling its HSPA+ service 4G (AT&T also soon plans to deploy LTE). Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which offers mobile WiMAX service via Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) also calls its service 4G. And of course, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), which launched LTE service in December, markets its service as 4G LTE.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Washington Post article
- see this IDG News Service article

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