AT&T 4G Speed | 2011

AT&T 4G Speed | 2011

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. –

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.

XDA Developer’s Forum

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.

Red flag.

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


The Bottom-Line

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.

The State of Mobile Broadband | 2011

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:

  1. AT&T 4G Review
  2. AT&T 4G Plans
  3. AT&T Prepaid Mobile Broadband
  4. AT&T 4G Speed
  5. AT&T 4G Coverage
  6. AT&T 4G Broadband Cards & Mobile Hotspots

Also check out: The 4G Comparison Infographic to see how AT&T stacks up against the competition.



  1. Arlyne Wollen says:

    I’m so glad you are doing this to check on claims being made. Not knowing as much as you do, the unsuspecting customer who is eager to have what AT&T purports to give (4G) will go ahead and buy it; only to discover that what was promised was not delivered. I don’t like it when merchants hard-sell and lie. Experts like you are invaluable. I am very grateful you are doing this to explain to us what is really behind all the sales talk. With your help we can make informed decisions. Again, thank you.

    • Marc says:

      Hi Arlyne,

      Thank you for your kind words. I started this site as a frustrated consumer who couldn’t find the information I needed in one place so I could compare all providers. I know firsthand how it can be.

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Jim Flores says:

    Wow it amazes me how at&t keeps their employees out of the loop with 4G.

    I originally upgraded to an HTC Inspire when i first heard that 4g was launched by att. I was more than excited and ready to upgrade and try out the new speeds.

    To my surprise what a disappointment that was, i got home which i figured was a 4g area, based on att’s 4g coverage map and to my surprise i got nothing close to 4g, sad to say my old bold 9000 had faster speeds.

    Well knowing me i figured id give my new 4g phone another shot. I decided to drive around to other cities
    near and far from my area and of course based on att’s 4g coverage map just to become more and more upset and discouraged that I could not get any download speeds past 2.2 Mbps and terrible upload speeds of 300 kbps.

    I finally gave up after 30 days of hope and decided to go back and exchange my HTC Inspire for an Iphone4. When I asked the sales rep as to why i wasn’t getting 4g speeds? His answer –> (Your phone is on 4g your icon indicates you are connected to HSPA+)

    I laughed shook my head showed him my speed test results 80 of them, he turned and smiled back and shook his head and said I guess we haven’t turned on our 4g yet. WOW what an answer…

    I finally ended up with the iphone4 and by far the speeds are much better than their so called 4G… My new Iphone4 gets consistent speeds 4-5 mbps download and 1-1.5 mbps upload…

    Just makes no sense that a HSDPA IPHONE4 3g can top speeds over a HSPA+ 4g phone…

    I told the rep Id come back 2 years from now when my new contract was up, which I still thought was’nt enough time for them to get things right.

    I do’nt know just truly bad business…

    Jim Flores

  3. Jeff Tweedy says:

    Great info on AT&T and there rolling out 4g service.. I also read the info on AT&T’s 4g pricing, and I’m baffled that they and verizion have placed data caps on 4g does AT&T plan on offering personal hotspots with there 4g service ? I have had clear wireless 4g for almost a year now and while I on average get speeds of around 4mgs download and 1-1.5 upload.. I only pay $45 a month (includes $5 router lease) for unlimited data usage… I would never consider paying AT&T $50 for 5g of data why do I own an iPad2 if I can’t stream Netflix or download movies from iTunes ?? I should say that I travel the country and use my clear to play xbox for hrs on end and to use FaceTime on my iPad and iPhone I at this point can’t live without it.. I go nuts over the fact that AT&T and verizion do everything they can to eat more and more of our money and people just accept it as fact… I thought tv went digital so that all this bandwidth could be opened up for things such as 4g maybe I’m wrong, but I think paying AT&T $280 a month for 5 phones (4 iPhones thankfully grandfathered in with unlimited data which I hear will end when I get a new iphone5 ?) entitles me to unlimited 4g I gladly pay what I pay cuz I love my gadgets , but enough is enough stand up and demand that 4g be unlimited for $50

  4. Speed Reality says:

    An android app that measures the real world:

  5. Justin says:

    I get 14 mbps according to the speed test I use from Windows Phone 7 Market Place. I guess it’s because I am using my house wifi for the phone but normally when I am out in public I get about 2-3 mbps. possibly sometimes 1. That’s becuase I am not relying on wifi.

  6. Ola says:

    I need to to tthank you foor this excellent read!! I absoluttely lloved every bit
    of it. I have you book-marked to look at new
    things yyou post…

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