If you’re interested in AT&T, check out the 2012 AT&T 4G Speed | Real Vs. Advertised Speeds for the latest. This is a dated review.
Since last year AT&T’s launched what they call 4G speed:
See what’s possible with speeds up to four times faster* than AT&T already fast mobile broadband network.
*4G speeds require a 4G device and are delivered when HSPA+ technology is combined with enhanced backhaul. Available in limited areas with availability increasing with ongoing backhaul deployment.
Like T-Mobile, they’ve rebranded HSPA+, an upgraded version of their current HSPA 3G technology, to provide faster speeds while they play catch up in building their new network that runs on the same technology as Verizon’s 4G LTE.
If AT&T’s 4G speed is 4 times faster as they say, then their advertised speeds should now be 6.8 Mbps downloading and 4.8 Mbps uploading when compared with last year’s advertised 3G speeds.
Here’s what their statement regarding that straight from the horse’s mouth:
Just how fast is AT&T 4G? Answer:
With enhanced backhaul AT&T is seeing network speeds up to approximately 6 Mbps. Actual speeds experienced will vary and depend on several factors, including location, device, environment, and capacity. – ATT.com
6 Mbps is just as fast as what Sprint advertises as 4G speed and close enough to 6.8 Mbps. To add credibility to the claim, a majority of users at HowardForums have been able to get speeds close to 6 Mbps.
However, if you’re like most users, you’ll see speeds closer to 2.5 Mbps as indicated by PC World’s 4G Speed Tests.
It seems that with T-Mobile 4G and Verizon 4G speeds being consistently higher, the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network can no longer hold that title.
Upload Speeds | Confusion & Misinformation
If you skip back to AT&T’s advertised 6 Mbps statement, you’ll notice there’s no mention of upload speeds. If you skip further back, you’ll also see that they advertised “four times current speeds”.
What they don’t say is that this applies only to downloading.
As previously mentioned, a quadrupling of 3G upload speeds would yield 4.8 Mbps. However, the users at HowardForums and tests done by PCWorld consistently received speeds closer to 1 Mbps (similar to Sprint 4G and T-Mobile 4G).
In some instances AT&T Motorola Atrix users were having, speeds were even lower. As a result, users filed a better business bureau complaint against AT&T since the phone was marketed as having 4G speeds:
AT&T’s Response To My BBB Complaint
AT&T Mobility (AT&T) received the above-referenced customer complaint and appreciates the opportunity to respond. Specifically, [redacted] complains that the recently released Motorola Atrix does not offer speeds anywhere near what advertised speeds claim. He is requesting activation of 4G services and removal of the cap on the Motorola Atrix services.
Account research regarding this complaint shows that AT&T is focused on delivering a wide choice of solutions and the best possible Smartphone experience to our customers. Be assured that AT&T has not “capped” the upload speeds on the ATRIX. The ATRIX is a HSUPA-capable device, and we currently are performing the testing and preparations necessary to ensure that, when we turn this feature on, you will continue to have a world class experience.
Essentially, AT&T sold 4G phones that didn’t have 4G speeds ‘turned on’.
To make matters worse, the upload speeds of their “4G phone” have been shown to be slower than the 3G iPhone on the same network with extremely low speeds of 300 kbps.
In AT&T’s defense, other users may simply not be in 4G areas and as such can’t receive the faster speeds. However, AT&T 4G coverage as shown by their own map is misleading:
Our national coverage footprint is getting even faster with 4G! Scroll over our coverage map to see our ever-growing 4G coverage areas.
AT&T has deployed HSPA+ to virtually 100% of our nation’s fastest mobile broadband network, which enables 4G speeds when combined with enhanced backhaul.
Upon scrolling over the entire coverage map, only two areas in the entire country ‘popped up’ for ‘detailed local 4G coverage maps’ (Northern California & Los Angeles). However, the fine print below the map reads “map depicts current and future 3G coverage. 4G coverage not depicted”. Upon closer inspection of the legend, there are two distinctions: current mobile broadband and future mobile broadband.
The page headlines, sub-headlines and subsequent text all emphasize 4G speed elegantly aligned next to a map where “4G coverage is not depicted”, a notice faintly labeled in fine print and blended in a shade of gray on a gray background.
Contrast this with Verizon and Sprint’s 4G coverage maps that have specific buttons and tabs dedicated to showing explicitly and separately their 4G coverage.
What are you trying to hide AT&T?
– AT&T 4G Coverage | 2011 Mobile Broadband Review
AT&T has faster download speeds of 6 Mbps that can compete with “T-Mobile 4G” and “Sprint 4G” thanks to an HSPA+, an upgrade to existing 3G technology also employed by T-Mobile. Where exactly you can receive those speeds are muffled in misinformation.
Upload speeds, with the exception of Motorola Atrix users, are also comparable to Sprint 4G & T-Mobile 4G upload speeds up to 1 Mbps but are not an improvement over previous 3G speeds.
Does AT&T have 4G?
Like mobile broadband, the definition of 4G changes based on who you ask.
The International Telecommunications Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R, say that three times fast), defines 4G as “a cellular system that must have target peak data rates of up to approximately 100 Mbps for a high mobility connection (read: mobile broadband) and 1 Gbps for low mobility (think: wireless Clear 4G modems that don’t move too much).
With that being said, no U.S. provider offers true 4G service.
As AT&T launches their LTE network mid-2011 and continues to expand it throughout the country, then they’ll have a better chance at competing with Verizon 4G LTE, the fastest provider with true 4G potential at this time.
Next, AT&T 4G Coverage
In the next installment, I’ll be covering in more detail specifically where current AT&T 4G coverage is in addition to future coverage.
Also in this review:
- AT&T 4G Review
- AT&T 4G Plans
- AT&T Prepaid Mobile Broadband
- AT&T 4G Speed
- AT&T 4G Coverage
- AT&T 4G Broadband Cards & Mobile Hotspots
Also check out: The 4G Comparison Infographic to see how AT&T stacks up against the competition.