New and Improved: 4G, Organic, Natural and Green!

November 21, 2010 |  by

Green-Lantern1Recent claims about 4G networks have been criticized as confusing and misleading. Faced with slowing subscriber growth, wireless operators are enticing consumers to upgrade to smarter phones and more expensive data services by hyping 4G as a faster, next-gen network service.

The UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), responsible for setting global standards for communications technology, announced October 21 that only two technologies – LTE-Advanced and WiMax 2 – truly qualify as 4G, defined as IP-based, using orthogonal frequency-division- multiplexing (OFDM) and clearing download speeds of 100 megabits per second.  Maggie Reardon’s analysis shows the earlier-stage technologies of Verizon Wireless’ LTE network, and Sprint’s and Clearwire’s WiMax don’t come close to ITU specifications. Neither does T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network.

That said, the upgrades all four major wireless carriers have implemented have made their networks faster.

This 4G marketing reminds me of other content-free buzzwords. Consumers increasingly seek out and are often willing to pay a premium for “All natural” and “organic” products. Yet, these terms are often not precisely defined.  When it comes to “organic” and “natural”, it’s all about the label.

  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the National Organic Program (NOP). NOP defines “organic” and provides certification that agricultural ingredients have been produced under conditions that would meet the definition. They also include labeling standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). The term “organic” is not defined in either of these laws or the regulations that FDA enforces under their authority.  Cosmetic products labeled with organic claims must comply with both USDA regulations for the organic claim and FDA regulations for labeling and safety requirements for cosmetics.
  • “Green” is not a label or a certification. Some call it a “state of mind”.  For example:
    • Drastic lifestyle change to become completely independent from fossil fuels and other pollutants that harm the environment.
    • Returning to natural, healthy methods of living… breathing fresh air, eating healthy foods, conserving forests and wild life.
    • A term that is widely used to describe a building and site that is designed with minimal impact on the environment.
    • A product created with sustainability in mind…it meets the needs of the present without undermining future generations to meet their needs.

Is consumer confusion a legitimate concern? Is there backlash when the public feels duped?  Or does a sale of the “latest and greatest” cellphone, produce, or skin care product win in the end?  Sounds to me like another great opportunity for market research.

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