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
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+.
quote: 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.
quote: 2 Based on 4G network speeds currently available to mobile device users in the U.S.
quote: 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.