AT&T and the case of the missing 4G

AT&T is under fire from consumer groups and the media for not fulfilling its promise on 4G uplink speeds for some its of supposed 4G devices.

That is a load of public relations-speak right there, but, trying to read between the lines, you see that AT&T is saying that in certain areas – “network capacity and facilities” – the backhaul on the network is limiting AT&T has recently said that it will eventually turn on HSUPA capabilities for devices that are capable of using it but are limited currently by the carrier.There are potential legal problems for AT&T if it is proved that it has been using false advertising concerning 4G-capable devices. Essentially, the carrier is claiming that it has HSUPA capability, but in reality its network backhaul is not yet ready to support it and thus it has not turned the service on for a range of devices. The problem, is that right now there is actually no such thing as 4G. There are three standards that the International Telecommunications Union has allowed to be called 4G because they offer “significant upgrades to 3G technology” – HSPA+, Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax). The ITU, by caving on its definition of what 4G actually stands for (1 gigabit/sec downlink, 500 megabits/sec uplink from a stationary position), has created this entire marketing mess and AT&T has exacerbated it by not even being able to follow through on the ITU’s relaxed guidelines for the use of the 4G term (which classifies “forerunners to actual 4G”).The end effect is that consumers -- enterprise, government and the general public – are not benefiting in the short term from the overblown promises of companies looking at the dollars that marketing, if not actual technological reality, can produce for their bottom line. These technologies will eventually mature through LTE (and what will be considered true 4G with LTE-Advanced), which will not be universally available for three to five years, perhaps longer. The marketing departments of the carriers have bitten off more than their infrastructure can chew and it will be a while before the technology catches up to the promise.

The blogosphere and mainstream media are up in arms over the supposed 4G technology that carriers AT&T and T-Mobile are deploying. The claim is that not only are the speeds not “4G-worthy,” they are not even as fast as the 3G networks being deployed.

AT&T has been the target of most of the scorn because it has more or less admitted to capping the uplink speeds in its High Speed Uplink Packet Access on some of its non-iPhone 4 devices with the 4G label, such as the Motorola Atrix and the HTC Inspire.

HSPA+ as a standard is split between uplink (HSUPA) and downlink (HSDPA). So far the current controversy surrounding AT&T only has to do with the uplink portion of the standard.

PCMag.com did an uplink speed test between the iPhone 4, Atrix and Inspire last week using an application from Ookla called SpeedTest. They hooked all three phones up through the same server and performed the test six times in New York City. The test showed that the iPhone was getting uplink speeds closer to what HSPA+ is capable of while the Atrix and Inspire had speeds closer to the Univeral Mobile Telecommunications System that AT&T uses for its “3G” network.

There are variables that could affect the test, such as device radios and processors and interaction with the server PCMag used, so take the results as interesting but perhaps not definitive.

Technology blog Engadget has been following the AT&T “HSUPA-gate” and found that the carrier has “not turned on” HSUPA for most of its devices outside of the iPhone 4. That would affect all of its Android devices, such as the Atrix, Inspire and the Samsung Captivate (disclaimer – that is the phone that I carry; it also was on the cover of the December 2010 GCN print issue for our “Best Products Of 2010.”)

Specifically, according to Engadget, AT&T requires that all of its devices “handshake” with Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 5, which does not support HSPA. The iPhone has been allowed to connect through Release 6, which does support HSPA.

AT&T has not denied that its 4G network using HSPA+ is not actually using its so-called 4G technology. It has merely said that it has not “turned on” HSPA+ for devices like the Atrix. The accusation leveled against the carrier is that it is “capping” uplink speeds on these devices. AT&T released a statement denying that it was capping uplinks on any devices.

From AT&T on CNET.com:

“Be assured that AT&T has not ‘capped’ the upload speeds on the Atrix 4G. The Atrix 4G is an 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. Please keep in mind, software is only one of many factors that can affect speeds experienced. Factors such as location, time of day, network capacity and facilities can have an impact as well."







as we have touched on before at GCN,



X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.