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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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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.

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