AT&T has begun to roll out their 4G network simply by performing a search and replace on press materials and plastering their website—and even phones—with the word “4G”. They have decided that HSPA+ is more-or-less the same as 4G, and have further blurred the faint line between the two technologies.
AT&T recently upgraded the software of its mobile broadband network to HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access). When HSPA+ is combined with enhanced backhaul, AT&T’s already fast mobile broadband network will deliver even faster speeds.
This evolution sets the stage for another 4G speed upgrade later this year when AT&T begins the planned initial deployment of its LTE (Long Term Evolution) network in mid-2011. Once completed, AT&T will be the only carrier to offer two layers of network technology delivering 4G speeds: HSPA+ and LTE.
Now, there is nothing wrong with HSPA+ (in fact, it’s quite zippy), but attempting to mislead customers is a poor business practice. In reality, HSPA+ is a transitional phase that should be classified as “pre-4G”.
AT&T isn’t the only carrier doing this: T-Mobile has also declared their HSPA+ network as 4G, and due to the sly wording and lack of an official standard on what really qualifies as 4G, networks can get away with it.
To set the record straight: HSPA+ is considerably faster than ye old 3G, but it is not true 4G. It’s also important to remember that many phones labeled as “4G” will not actually be compatible with AT&T’s upcoming LTE network. The current iPhone 4 is compatible with neither (though, this may change soon).