Ever since T-Mobile started referring to their new HSPA+ network as America’s largest 4G network we have been wondering if anyone was going to challenge them on that statement. At first AT&T said T-Mobile had their 4G numbers wrong. Then T-Mobile responded on Facebook and launched a new commercial which claims their network is faster than AT&T.
Now AT&T is back at it again claiming their HSPA+ network is just as fast as T-Mobile and it covers more people. Speaking at the Sencha Conference in San Francisco this week, AT&T CTO John Donovan said they have been adding more backhaul and 80% of their 3G network has been upgrade to HSPA+. By the end of the year, AT&T expects to cover 250 million POPs with HSPA+ – more than the 200 million T-Mobile is aiming for.
So while AT&T and T-Mobile both offer HSPA+ networks, only T-Mobile has handsets which can take advantage of the faster speeds. We have no indication AT&T will refer to their HSPA+ network as “4G” since they are rolling out LTE next year, but in theory the carrier could launch a HSPA+ handset this year and brand it 4G if they really wanted to.
It still remains unclear exactly how fast AT&T’s HSPA+ network really is. Early reports indicated that AT&T was going with HSPA+ 14.4 Mbps, but their network hardware is supposed to be capable of 21 Mbps (just like T-Mobile). Our sources tell us that AT&T has not actually made the switch to 21 Mbps yet, but it might not really matter right now since the current HSPA+ handsets are limited to 14.4 Mbps anyways.
AT&T is trying hard to pass up Verizon as the top carrier in the U.S. and the addition of a “4G” phone this Christmas would definitely help their efforts.
What do you think AT&T should do? If T-Mobile gets to call their HSPA+ network “4G” then should AT&T do the same?