Confusion and Cost Could Slow 4G Adoption

4G won't be a determining factor in most consumers' next phone purchase, either because they don't see the benefit or they don't want to pay the cost, says a recent study from Retrevo.

While today's wireless carriers are quickly moving to overtake one another in the latest and greatest 4G (WiMax, HSPA+, or LTE) network, most consumers seem disinterested right now. The cause seems to be a mix of cost concern and confusion around the benefits of 4G, according to a recent Retrevo report.

Of the consumers surveyed, 30% said they won't buy a 4G phone this year because the data plan costs too much; 22% said the performance is not worth the cost, and 19% said they didn't know enough about 4G.

That leaves 29% of users planning to buy a 4G phone this year—29% of Android users, 34% of iPhone users, and 24% of BlackBerry users surveyed.

4G's value proposition has been jumbled at best, as the networks have rolled out quickly and still lack major areas of coverage. Additionally, there is confusion about the difference between the different protocols that make up "4G"—Sprint's WiMax, AT&T and T-Mobile's HSPA+ (both are rolling out LTE soon), and Verizon's LTE network. While there are different speeds between all of these, the reality is that they are all significantly faster than 3G. (For some field-tested results on 4G speeds, check out Which US 4G Smartphone Is the Fastest?)

And then there's the issue of cost. It's true that the data plan costs are quite a bit higher, hitting $50-60 per month for 5GB (or unlimited on Sprint). It does beg the question of if 4G is really worth the cost for most users?

On the enterprise level, I wouldn't expect to see a shift toward 4G anytime soon, at least as long as the organization is footing the bill. Though, since the data on an LTE network costs less for the carrier than other 4G networks, we may seem some cost relief as more carriers roll out LTE.  

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