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AT&T says T-Mobile is lying to customers by calling HSPA+ 4G.  (Source: SlashPhone)
Another day, another AT&T advertising fracas

Over the course of the last holiday season, Verizon aired a series of ads belittling AT&T's coverage and even mocking the iPhone's slogan (changing "There's an app for that" to "There's a map for that").  AT&T sued Verizonlost the suit, and eventually settled down after Verizon stopped airing the ads incessantly.

Now AT&T has a new target in its quest against what it feels is disingenuous and deceptive advertising -- T-Mobile's HSPA+ publicity campaign.  

HSPA+ is an advanced wireless technology designed to deliver faster download speeds over traditional 3G.  It's not quite a 4G technology -- WiMAX, UMB, and LTE are the "true" 4G options -- but it's more advanced than traditional 3G.  It does however work on existing 3G networks, and only requires a relatively simple firmware update to towers, in many cases.

So what's AT&T's problem?  T-Mobile, the nation's fourth largest carrier has been busy spreading HSPA+ coverage across the Northeastern United States.  Now it claims that it is delivering "4G" speeds.  Neville Ray, senior vice president of Engineering and Operations for T-Mobile writes in a release, "Our competitors are asking consumers to pay more for faster wireless service with limited coverage and very few capable devices.  In contrast, T-Mobile is already delivering 4G speeds today to customers and we continue to make major leaps in expanding our HSPA+ mobile broadband footprint."

AT&T believes T-Mobile's statements are misinformation intended to fool news writers and consumers.  AT&T Mobility spokesperson Seth Bloom comments, "I think that companies need to be careful that they're not misleading customers by labeling HSPA+ as a 4G technology.  We aren't labeling those technologies as 4G."

The wireless standard community seems to side with AT&T on this issue.  They typically refer to LTE as 4G successor to GSM (3G) while referring to HSPA+ with stop-gap terms like 3.5G or "advanced 3G."  AT&T is working on coming up with a plan to deploy LTE, but is first focusing on beefing up its 3G network.  Once those infrastructure improvements are complete it too will complete a quick HSPA+ update to improve the experience while customers await true 4G.

However, it won't be calling HSPA+ “4G” -- it will be calling it HSPA+.  

T-Mobile's HSPA+ service is currently available in New York City metropolitan area, including New Jersey and Long Island, as well as Upstate New York (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse); Connecticut (Hartford, New Haven, Milford and Stamford); Providence, R.I.; Memphis, Tenn.; Las Vegas; Philadelphia and the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  It has no publicly discussed plans to deploy WiMAX or LTE, as of yet.  

HSPA+ isn't just a firmware update in some cases, though.  Sometimes it requires more fiber to be laid to the tower to support the higher transmission rates.  T-Mobile is working on this to add more HSPA+ -- a spokesperson says, "Over the next few weeks, we'll continue to put the necessary backhaul in place in these locations to complete the upgrade. T-Mobile expects to have fiber backhaul in place in more than 100 metropolitan areas by the end of the year."

Like true 4G which only works on a couple of handsets (like the WiMAX-ready HTC EVO 4G on Sprint), there's a limited number of handsets that can handle HSPA+ advanced 3G.  T-Mobile will release two next month -- the Android powered myTouch 3G slide and the Garminfone, but currently has no handset for sale that can handle HSPA+.

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I'm not seeing the problem here...
By AEvangel on 5/25/2010 6:36:00 PM , Rating: 2
"Our competitors are asking consumers to pay more for faster wireless service with limited coverage and very few capable devices. In contrast, T-Mobile is already delivering 4G speeds today to customers and we continue to make major leaps in expanding our HSPA+ mobile broadband footprint."

Yeah, I'm not seeing the problem here. I just like to know when is the consumer responsible for making an educated decision. It's obvious in the statement above that he says 4G speeds, but he never says that it is truly 4G. I mean that would be like a car company saying the same fuel efficiency of today's best a Hybrid. Does that mean your getting a Hybrid?? No, your getting something similar. I guess their next lawsuit will be against " I can't believe it's not Butter" or Diet soda that claims to taste just like non-diet soda, hey I wanted all those pointless calories!!!

Gimme a break At&t, fix your network and quit blaming others for all your customer's leaving.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By monomer on 5/25/2010 6:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
Well, to be fair to AT&T, HSPA+ is rated at 42Mb/s, while tests on the first LTE networks are rated at 100 Mb/s using early consumer hardware.

Just because it is faster than 3G doesn't mean it offers 4G speeds.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By amanojaku on 5/25/2010 7:13:36 PM , Rating: 4
I think T-Mobile was honest and forthcoming.
Using the HSPA+ wireless technology standard, the T-Mobile network currently delivers theoretical peak download speeds of 21Mbps1. T-Mobile’s rapidly expanding HSPA+ mobile broadband footprint makes it easy for customers to enjoy 4G speeds2 on existing mobile broadband devices such as the T-Mobile webConnect™ Rocket™ Laptop Stick.
2 Based on 4G network speeds currently available to mobile device users in the U.S.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By sigilscience on 5/26/10, Rating: 0
By umop apisdn on 5/26/2010 9:02:29 AM , Rating: 2
Here here! Disclaimers at the bottom of a TV screen aren't exactly forethcoming.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By jRaskell on 5/26/2010 10:23:47 AM , Rating: 1
You can play semantics all you want, but the ads are definitely designed to mislead people into believing their getting 4G phones, regardless what the fine print says.

You've just described the majority of advertisements across the board, including many from AT&T themselves.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By Drag0nFire on 5/26/2010 11:16:35 AM , Rating: 4
Honestly, if T-Mobile has to follow each ad with a vocal disclaimer "Note, our HSPA+ technology is not true 4G" for the sake of consumer protection, then ATT should follow each ad with "Note, our network sucks and you should expect dropped calls and slow transfer rates".

Seriously, isn't the point of advertising to talk up your services? ATT is free to take it's own ads to the contrary if it feels it is being wronged.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By fic2 on 5/26/2010 7:20:47 PM , Rating: 2
Or that AT&T "unlimited" isn't really unlimited.

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By Klinky1984 on 5/25/2010 7:37:22 PM , Rating: 2
100mbit/sec which you'll be capped at 5GB for $30 a month on top of your normal phone bill... At a certain point the throughput doesn't matter as much as the transfer caps.

By mcnabney on 5/26/2010 9:58:20 AM , Rating: 2
VoIP is coming in a big way.

Soon, instead of minutes you will just pay for gigs.

So the caps will be gone, but you will need to pay for a bigger plan if you use a lot.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By xdrol on 5/25/2010 8:14:54 PM , Rating: 4
Not really. HSPA+ is 112 Mb/s. From the same vendor of your linked 100 Mb/s LTE:

Another question is that you need 4 channels to achieve it, but you also need the same radio frequency width for the 100 Mb/s LTE.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By monomer on 5/26/2010 12:59:39 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with the other commenter that T-mobile's HSPA+ is as fast as current 4G available in the US (i.e. Sprint WiMax), which they note in the disclaimer.

On the other hand, your post is a little disingenuous, since you are comparing the current theoretical maximum HSPA+ speeds to an actual system. You should either be comparing the maximum speed of each (112 MB/s for HSPA+ vs. 326.4 MB/s for LTE) or actual numbers (21 MB/s for T-Mobile vs. 100 MB/s for Nokia).

By xdrol on 5/27/2010 5:04:38 AM , Rating: 2
Again no, read the links again. LTE was demonstrated with a 100 Mbit/s (not MB/s) data call, and HSPA+ was demonstrated with a 112Mbit/s data call, both with available-on-market devices.

The theoretical maximum of LTE is higher, yes, but none ever demonstrated it yet. I agree that LTE is the mobile access technology of the future, but the claim that HSPA+ is slower is simply invalid.

RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By bplewis24 on 5/25/2010 6:52:04 PM , Rating: 2
Completely agree with you.

I think it should be simple enough to test out the HSPA+ technology and compare the data download speeds to the only real-world option we have right now: the Evo 4G on Sprint. If it is nearly comparable, then T-Mobile really has nothing to worry about.


RE: I'm not seeing the problem here...
By invidious on 5/25/2010 7:28:10 PM , Rating: 1
If it is nearly comparable, then T-Mobile really has nothing to worry about.

Except it isn't nearly comparable. 4G is far more than 21Mpbs. The networks may not be in place to support it yet but all forms of true 4G support 100 Mbps or higher.

By theapparition on 5/25/2010 9:48:35 PM , Rating: 2

Because T-mobile clearly states comparison to 4G speeds currently available . The only currently available 4G network is the Sprint WiMax one.
Recent tests on the EVO 4G had download speeds on 4G at around 2Mbps.

T-mobile on a NexusOne was comparable for downloads.

I downloaded and installed the application on my T-Mobile compatible Google Nexus One and the Sprint HTC EVO 4G to conduct some speed tests. I made sure I was outside in a clear area where the signal indicators on both devices showed full bars for each wireless technology. I then ran six tests (the first one for each was always low) and averaged the five tests for upload and download speeds for each device and each technology. Here are the results for you to consider:

•T-Mobile 3G on Nexus One: Download 2,038 kbps and upload 390 kbps
•Sprint 4G on EVO 4G: Download 2,278 kbps and upload 988 kbps
•Sprint 3G on EVO 4G: Download 1,492 and upload 668 kbps
As you can see there is very little difference between T-Mobile’s 7.2 Mbps 3G data network and the Sprint 4G WiMAX network in tests (for download speeds) and these match what I have seen previously with the Sprint Overdrive. Also, I have seen speeds exceeding 3,000 kbps (3 Mbps) on my Nokia N900 that has outstanding reception. There is a significant difference apparently (as measured by this application) in the upload speeds, which may be important to you if you plan to upload lots of video content (Qik, YouTube) or images.

If there was some radical speed difference then I may have considered the EVO 4G, but I am going to stick with my T-Mobile Google Nexus One running Android 2.2 (Froyo) for now.

So theoretical 4G speeds may get to 100Mbps, but current real world usage is far, far lower.

Hopefully LTE will be better because I'm not impressed with WiMax at all.

By mac2j on 5/25/2010 8:06:39 PM , Rating: 2
I agree - this all goes back to AT&T arguing over semantics of other networks' advertising campaigns instead of spending money to upgrade its archaic infrastructure.

The truth is that AT&T's network in NYC has been terrible since they enabled MMS on the iphones and could be nearly unusable in some areas once they enable tethering.

I'm planning on dumping on them for the Evo4G next week (which isn't really much/any faster than good HSPA+ so no problems from me on T-mobile's ads).... and I think once Verizon gets the iPhone AT&T is in for a monster collapse.

oh, the irony
By fifolo on 5/25/2010 9:44:21 PM , Rating: 5
From a company that will soon be peddling the Iphone "4G"

RE: oh, the irony
By atlmann10 on 5/26/2010 2:28:57 AM , Rating: 3
That's the best point they will be peddling the iPhone 4G which does not use 4G connection ratios, hardware or software. That is pretty damn ironic isn't it that they are calling anyone a liar. It is kind of like there commercials with the guy talking about you cannot do voice and data at the same time. The truth is you can, but only on very specific phones (Like the original Droid or touch pro 2)! At&t at least on a cellular outlook is fighting for there life. The one thing that is keeping them alive (iPhone/iPad now), is also strangling there network.

RE: oh, the irony
By VahnTitrio on 5/26/2010 9:57:43 AM , Rating: 2
"iPhone 4G" is the name it's been given by tech news sources and blogs. While it may be the 4th generation iPhone, it would be stupid to name it that. I think those who have speculated "iPhone HD" are on the right path for whatever the new iPhone will be dubbed.

AT&T is mad?
By Calindar on 5/25/2010 9:06:25 PM , Rating: 5
So saying "enjoy 4G speeds" is more dishonest than AT&T saying they have "A Better 3G Experience"?

Yeah, right.

RE: AT&T is mad?
By Aloonatic on 5/26/2010 3:07:24 AM , Rating: 2
Just what are actual 3G and 4G speeds anyway?

I'm not sure how things are in the US, but in the UK 3G is throttled anyway, and it probably doesn't get all that close to its theoretical top speed. So what's the point in 4G anyway?

RE: AT&T is mad?
By fleshconsumed on 5/26/2010 8:04:20 AM , Rating: 2
...or advertising U-Verse as full Fiber Optic technology in an attempt to compete against FIOS.

Pot & kettle
By morphologia on 5/26/2010 4:52:13 PM , Rating: 2
Is it as misleading as AT&T saying they cover "97% of all Americans"? Their market share is more like 28%. I guess misleading advertising is only OK if they do it...

RE: Pot & kettle
By MrFord on 5/27/2010 12:44:05 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe not like that, but the fact that they say they cover 97% of all Americans... if they don't move from their home. Which I thought was the whole point of having a cellphone.

They definitely don't cover 97% of the US land, and there's a good chance that if I need a cellphone, I won't be sitting on my couch.

This article is based on my reporting
By mikedano on 5/27/2010 2:54:59 PM , Rating: 2
As far as I can tell, this article is based on my reporting and does not provide any attribution:

I have asked the author of this article to provide attribution, including a link from this article to mine, but that has not happened.

By RjBass on 5/28/2010 10:00:02 AM , Rating: 2
So you are saying that it is impossible for a DailyTech article and your article to cover the same topic? I mean you might be right, but I can also see how maybe the author of the DT article might have also gotten the news from a different source then your and based the article off of that source.

Upgrading cell tower "firmware"...
By iFX on 5/25/2010 6:42:25 PM , Rating: 1
LOL, it's slightly more complex than that.

By Brandon Hill on 5/25/2010 6:46:55 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, it works for my wireless router :-)

More crying
By spathotan on 5/25/2010 8:42:28 PM , Rating: 2
AT&T is just once again pissed off somebody is better than them. First Verizon with their coverage, and now T-Mobile with their speed and technology. T-Mobile is a relatively small company compared to AT&T and Verizon, yet they rank 2nd in customer satisfaction and their data speeds are second only to Verizon, wheras AT&T is dead last in basically everything you can categorize.

T-Mobile never called their HSPA+ tech "4G", they said it can deliver 4G "speeds" which is a pretty vague and general statement. AT&T would have a case or valid argument here if T-Mobile was actually CALLING IT and MARKETING IT AS 4G....but they arent. Either way its faster than what AT&T can offer anywhere and that's why they are crying. Billions and trillions of iPhone sales and they still suck, its easy to see where all the revenue is going.

Pot, meet kettle!
By wiz220 on 5/26/2010 11:10:11 AM , Rating: 2
What a joke. Some of the most dishonest or purposefully misleading ads I've seen came FROM ATT right after the Verizon ads about coverage came out. Luke Wilson couldn't hide the fact that ATT wanted to have people THINK it's full coverage was 3G, but, of course they neglected to inform viewers that much of what was being shown was their older, slower, EDGE network. While Verizon, on the other hand, CLEARLY stated that they were talking about 3G coverage in their commercials.

Who cares?
By Suntan on 5/26/2010 12:45:26 PM , Rating: 2
Nerds will care that the correct naming nomenclature is used. The 98% of the remaining cell phone using public does not care about this. They just want their cell phones to be peppy and connect to facebook quickly.

Personally, my cell phone regularly gets 4x faster speeds at work than at home, yet it is all still 3G. I care if the phone wants to flash “3G”,”4G”, “1X”, or “Suck It” on the top line, as long as it connects and communicates at a satisfactory speed, I don’t care what they call it.


By rrburton on 5/26/2010 1:20:47 PM , Rating: 2
They typically refer to LTE as 4G successor to GSM (3G) while referring to HSPA+ with stop-gap terms like 3.5G or "advanced 3G."

Not correct.

4G = LTE which is the successor to UMTS (3G). UMTS was the successor to GSM/EDGE (2G/2.5G). UMTS/HSPA+ is 3.5G

This doesn't make any sense.
By RjBass on 5/27/2010 8:54:23 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, I must have been thinking the wrong thing all the time here, but when did 3g and 4g become an actual standard? I thought 3g just meant 3rd generation regardless of what carrier it was one, and the same with 4g. So now we have actual standards as to what exactly 4g is? If hspa+ is T-Mobiles 4th generation of mobile technology then maybe they should be allowed to call it whatever they want.

I guess I just had it wrong all this time. Who knew?

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