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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 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.


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