4G Speed on Trial

March 30, 2011
11

Behold the marketing age, one where paying close enough attention to the bureaus in charge of term definitions can earn you a higher market share and brand throne in consumers' minds around the world. Case in point: 4G speed. You and I know that the term "4G" means fast - we're told it means the fastest, the fastest in the whole world! In fact it's nothing more than a name, the speed at whose definition changes faster than its hypothetical speeds every single day of the year. This post explores the 4G matter in terms of Sprint's HSPA+ speed network and how it's working via the HTC Inspire 4G and Motorola ATRIX 4G, both of them out now.

From here on in, only the facts. Texas citizen Keith Geissler very recently owned the brand new Motorola ATRIX 4G. After finding through his own tests that his phone wasn't delivering the "4G" speeds he felt he was promised, he filed a complaint with the Better Business Buerau. In his complaint, he asked that AT&T "uncap" his data connection.

AT&T responded with assurances that “has not capped the upload speeds on the Atrix,” but that the ATRIX 4G's HSUPA, the upload piece of the HSPA+ puzzle, aka AT&T's version of "4G," would not be enabled until "a later date." AT&T noted that the same was true of the HTC Inspire 4G, both of these phones eventually capable of reaching 5.5+ Mbps upload speed on HSUPA, both of them appear to be currently maxed out at 300 Kbps.

The group responsible for holding companies responsible for using the term "4G" only when certain speeds have been met is the International Telecommunications Union. This group, the ITU, revised their ruling on what defines 4G network speeds in December of 2010. A portion of that press release, specifically the bit about the definition of 4G, can be found here:

During the coming week, WRS-10 will also focus on progress made in ITU-R Study Groups and provide the latest information on topical issues related to radio standardization and spectrum management.

A highlight of these activities has been the recent decision of the ITU regarding the platform for the next generations of mobile broadband telecommunications, known as IMT-Advanced.

Following a detailed evaluation against stringent technical and operational criteria, ITU has determined that “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” should be accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced. As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed. The detailed specifications of the IMT-Advanced technologies will be provided in a new ITU-R Recommendation expected in early 2012.

HSUPA is not enabled on the ATRIX 4G or the Inspire 4G. HSUPA is, on the other hand, enabled on both the iPhone 4 as well as the iPad 2, both of them working on AT&T's 3G network. Another phone that will launch with HSUPA enabled will be the Samsung Infuse 4G. According to a Facebook leak as well as an AT&T representative speaking with Wired Magazine, “We will be turning HSUPA upload speeds on via a software update to the Motorola ATRIX 4G and HTC Inspire 4G planned for April.” The AT&T explanation for upload speeds so disparate from download speeds on the Inspire 4G and ATRIX 4G has been the following: "network testing and preparation.”

During a press conference at CTIA 2011 in Orlando Florida, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse delivered a speech that included the release of two new devices including the HTC EVO View 4G which will be WiMAX-enabled. Hesse had a catch phrase, a sound byte that stuck with everyone at the conference and, once it was out, everyone who loves to see a good fistfight: he said that Sprint's 4G was, pointedly, "not faux-G, 4G."

What do you think?

[via Wired]


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  • Godtoe

    Sprint doesn’t have an HSPA+ Network. They have a WiMax network.

    • chocko

      IT also stated that any technology could fall under the title of 4G, or 4th generation wireless technology. This effectively allows wireless companies to tag anything 4G that has received an “upgrade” in regard to speed improvements. Most of these companies are just dropping larger pipe fiber lines to their towers to increase the speed and now its 4G! Has anyone actually looked at the HSUPA+ packet data to determine it is a new protocol? It’s like getting a cable internet connection after you have been using DSL service. It’s still TCP/IP just with a larger pipe.

      • Stover Jason

        Even though I am a happy VZW customer (with no plans of going back to the big bad blue any time soon), technically VZW’s LTE isn’t quite running at true 4G speeds either, this isn’t projected to happen for quite a while. ATT, T-Mo and even Sprint are all equally guilty of this practice. Its a marketing game to see who can spend the least money and get the most customers to convert based on the notion that you are getting the latest and greatest technology. We all have to be patient and keep pushing for faster, unrestricted mobile access. If enough people want it, they will fall in line or get left behind.

      • Stover Jason

        Even though I am a happy VZW customer (with no plans of going back to the big bad blue any time soon), technically VZW’s LTE isn’t quite running at true 4G speeds either, this isn’t projected to happen for quite a while. ATT, T-Mo and even Sprint are all equally guilty of this practice. Its a marketing game to see who can spend the least money and get the most customers to convert based on the notion that you are getting the latest and greatest technology. We all have to be patient and keep pushing for faster, unrestricted mobile access. If enough people want it, they will fall in line or get left behind.

      • Stover Jason

        Even though I am a happy VZW customer (with no plans of going back to the big bad blue any time soon), technically VZW’s LTE isn’t quite running at true 4G speeds either, this isn’t projected to happen for quite a while. ATT, T-Mo and even Sprint are all equally guilty of this practice. Its a marketing game to see who can spend the least money and get the most customers to convert based on the notion that you are getting the latest and greatest technology. We all have to be patient and keep pushing for faster, unrestricted mobile access. If enough people want it, they will fall in line or get left behind.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elijah-Carter/22301011 Elijah Carter

      I’m sure its an error in the article…Think the author meant “[AT&T's] HSPA+ speed network and how it’s working via the HTC Inspire 4G and Motorola ATRIX 4G”

  • Nory82688sn

    This is exactly why I’m leavin ATT, I bought the crippled atrix believing there were going to be hspa + speeds, and we know that there isn’t. So ATT is false advertising and i want my money back and I want out of my contract, and i will go to sprint for the evo 3d 4g where they actually care about their customers. I cannot wait.

  • Nory82688sn

    This is exactly why I’m leavin ATT, I bought the crippled atrix believing there were going to be hspa + speeds, and we know that there isn’t. So ATT is false advertising and i want my money back and I want out of my contract, and i will go to sprint for the evo 3d 4g where they actually care about their customers. I cannot wait.

  • http://www.myvouchercodes.co.uk online shopping uk

    Just one more reason why we need MORE wireless carriers (and choice) and not LESS. (AT&T and T-Mobile merger anyone??)

  • Vjwelch

    Who cares about speed anyway? With the data caps these companies put in place you cant take advantage of the things the speed make possible. All you are doing is getting to your data cap faster

  • Vjwelch

    Who cares about speed anyway? With the data caps these companies put in place you cant take advantage of the things the speed make possible. All you are doing is getting to your data cap faster