Mar 08 AT 9:40 PM Taylor Wimberly 60 Comments

AT&T customers lash out over capped upload speeds on 4G Android phones, 5x slower than the 3G iPhone 4

Why is a 3G phone getting faster mobile broadband speeds than a brand new 4G phone on the same network?

Concerned AT&T customers who purchased the HTC Inspire 4G or Motorola Atrix 4G have begun to notice that their upload speeds are being capped and they have started making noise to see if the carrier will address it.

This past month AT&T launched their first pair of 4G phones which operate on the carrier’s 4G HSPA+ network. Even though AT&T has upgraded their entire 3G network to HSPA+, only the markets with enhanced backhaul are experiencing the faster 4G speeds.

So just how fast is AT&T 4G? On the company website it claims 4G network speeds are up to approximately 6 Mbps, but makes no specific mention of upload speeds.

We know that AT&T customers with the iPhone 4 regularly see upload speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps, but it appears that all 4G Android phones are capped at a measly 300 kbps. Upload speeds are not critical to every user, but they do have a direct relation with the quality of video calls. AT&T touts smoother-streaming video as a reason to buy a 4G phone now, so it is troubling that Android customers are being treated different than iPhone users.

Research shows that the Inspire 4G and Atrix 4G both have modems that support High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) with speeds up to 5.7 Mbps. We don’t expect to see these full upload speeds on an actual device, but at least we know the hardware supports faster speeds than what is currently available.

I’ve done my own personal testing with an Atrix 4G all over Texas and I can confirm that upload speeds never surpassed 300 kbps. Download speeds were average (2-3 Mbps), but I’m not sure if the enhanced backhaul has been turned on in my state.

Other users who have tested the Atrix 4G and Inspire 4G against the iPhone 4 have found similar results. Alex Colon of PCMag tested the devices in six different locations and found the iPhone 4 generally reported upload speeds of over 1.5 Mbps, while the Android phones were capped at 300 kbps.

YouTuber xEchoRelay also compared the Atrix to the iPhone and shared his results.

PCMag reached out to AT&T to see if they would comment on the capped upload speeds and they received an answer which hinted at updates to existing models. AT&T did not deny any of the claims and only said, “As you noticed, we have a number of HSUPA devices today and we will have more HSUPA-enabled devices in the future–new devices and updates to existing models.”

By failing to address the claims of PCMag, it appears that AT&T has silently confirmed they are capping the upload speeds on their 4G Android phones.

Upset customers have taken their concerns for the forums with some of them threatening to return their devices if AT&T does not address the issue. The complaints are beginning to grow with a nine page thread on the AT&T forums, a ten pager on the Motorola forums, and a 14 page thread on xda-developers where hackers are trying to defeat the cap.

If you want to look on the bright side, at least these capped upload speeds can be fixed with a simple over-the-air software update. AT&T could be protecting their network by limiting upload speeds until their enhanced backhaul is complete.

Unfortunately, some AT&T customers might be waiting awhile to experience true 4G speeds. The company’s answer center says that 2/3 of their mobile traffic will be delivered over their enhanced backhaul by the end of 2011. AT&T’s coverage map doesn’t exactly specify which areas have enhanced backhaul, so it’s kind of a guessing game as to what areas can access 4G speeds right now.

Thankfully AT&T doesn’t charge any extra data fees for their 4G handsets, but it still puts them in a weird position that some of their 3G phones offer faster broadband speeds than their new 4G lineup (up to 5x faster in some cases).

Finally, in case you were wondering AT&T still claims that third-party drive test data show they continue to have the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network. My experiences would tell me otherwise, but I’m just a blogger so what do I know.

Update: If you want to voice your concern as an AT&T customer, Zack Nebbaki filed a consumer complaint on Groubal.

Source: Groubal

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://Website Kevin

    My Inspire 4G averages about 250 kbps up and 1500 down. I don’t upload much but still pisses me off.

    • http://Website Cris

      Just to make you feel a little worse. I get 10 mbps on tmo :)

      • http://Website Mergers and Acquisitions

        Do you mean SprinT-Mobile?

        • Galen20K

          No that will never happen, both companies are just fine apart. T-Mobile has NEVER lost money even tho they’ve lost subscribers, they still ALWAYS turn a Profit and is a huge money maker for its parent company even if its subscriber base isn’t excelling.

          • http://Website ScuroRaven

            It is T-mobile’s Parent company that is, once again, in talks with buying out Sprint.

          • http://Website zcarman

            Actually, Sprint is in talks with DT to purchase T-Mobile USA for a minority ownership in Sprint/Nextel/T-Mobile – DT likes the deal since they get out from under the cost of T-Mobile USA and they still get the additional income of having a footprint in the US…

            It really would be a win-win IF and that’s a huge IF Sprint could actually pull off the merger. Eventually they will both be going LTE – but for now, they are really too different to work well together.

            Remember the Nextel Merger? 2005 wasn’t all that long ago… Nightmare!

        • http://Website Anonymous

          I actually called T-Mobile recently to complain again about the service coverage in my area, and they gave me the run around & said Edge coverage is still good coverage, but finally game me a credit.

          However, what they rep said, before transferring me, was “Thank you for calling Sprint…” Once the transfer music started, I was asking the person standing next to me if they heard what I heard, since it was on speaker phone, and he said yes. We just thought perhaps the rep was an ex-Sprint rep now working at T-Mobile.

          Until the 4th rep I spoke with to try to rectify my problem said the same thing… “Thanks for choosing Sprint…”

          So, perhaps this isn’t too far fetched.

  • http://Website Hassan

    I got the atrix 4g from them, and it is my daily routine to call them at 10:00 am and tell them how awful their internet speed download/upload service compare to T-mobile and they should not claim the fastest 4g network in America.

    Stupid ATnotT

    • http://Website Anonymous

      AT&T is just desperate at this point bc they don’t have exclusivity to the iPhone anymore.

      And if they keep messing around, they might find themselves bought out of the 3rd largest US carrier.

      And technically, AT&T still calls themselves the fastest, to those without Androids. When in reality, Android is what could save AT&T from their self made mess & their greed from their iPhone days.

  • http://Website Brian

    Why do people still continue with AT&T? They are more expensive, they cap the internet download amount, the speed…again I ask. WHY DO PEOPLE STAY ON AT&T?

    On a side note, I have seen and used the Inspire HD. Awesome phone. I wonder why HTC chose to limit the Inspire HD to AT&T. They should have offered it to T-Mobile. Oh yeah Im sorry, I forgot. T-Mobile SUCKS!

    • Taylor Wimberly

      Um, T-Mobile has offered the myTouch 4G since last year which offers the same hardware specs and performance. The only major difference is the display size.

      • krazytrixxxsta

        dont forget the ugly phone design and tmo water down version of sense.

        • Galen20K

          you’re on Crack, its Classy, Beautiful, SOlid, Premium, and well built. = P hater

          • http://Website Brian

            I was actually focusing on the ridiculousness of At&t. There is always some type of issue with there data limits, cost of said data, and the capping of data. T-Mobile doesn’t cap the data, they do limit the speed after 5 GB. Everyone I know with a iPhone or Android device complain about the service they pay for.

            I am currently in a spat with T-mobile, that is where the “T-Mobile Sucks” comment came from. I have a Vibrant, need I say more. Even the XDA developers are abandoning this phone. It is very sad.

            The math:
            If you are unhappy with your phone and you are within 22 months of your contract you have two options:
            1:Buy a phone at full price. Average $499
            2: Pay EFT and go to another provider. $200

            I could go to Sprint and get a Evo 4G for $199. they are offering a $125 credit for switching from another provider before 4/16.
            Pay T-Mobile’s $200 That would be:
            $200 ETF
            $199 Evo 4G
            -$125 Credit from Sprint until 4/16
            = $375 – $400 with taxes.
            OR pay $499 for another phone. Which one would you do? I would even get a better plan for the same price with Any Mobile. Right now I have a plan from years ago with MyFaves from T-Mobile.

    • http://Website Regular Guy

      I’m not sure why people have so much hatred towards t-mobile? Is it because they pay more at other carriers assumging they will receive better service when in reality that never happens? I’ve had multiple carriers and T-mobile beats them all especially for the price. Pay more for your crappy service, I will continue to get great service and pay less and use great phones. Verizon is only known for outlandish bills and AT&T is known for slightly outlandish bills and dropped phone calls and oh yeah… limiting their “4G” phones so their customers can claim 4G.

      • http://Website Adrian

        Different carriers work for different people. Some people want the most affordable, some want the most reliable others don’t really care as long as they can have an Iphone. Just be happy we all have a choice. Holding up a big purple T-Mobile Flag and screaming at people that they are paying more for crappy service makes you look pretty childish. I’m glad you’re happy with your provider. I am too.

      • http://Website Charlotte

        In Tmobile’s areas that have HSPA+ enabled, the speeds and service cannot be beat. Unfortunately, not everyone lives in one of those areas. I’m lucky that I do, and can get super fast and relatively cheap service. They are the best in some areas, not so much in others.

      • http://Website Anonymous

        Now, pls don’t vote me down for telling my side here… lol I do like T-Mobile, but…

        I for 1 don’t have the luxury of living in an area where T-Mobile even offers 4G, or even 3G service for that matter.

        They keep us on the EDGE 2G network here (just outside of a major metro area), while they continue to expand areas that have country roads & smaller areas that get 3G already. Even my calls get to sounding digitalized & even drop completely. When I tell T-Mobile about this, they just pull up a map at their end & say “you’re in excellent coverage”. Really?

        While I am still a T-Mobile customer, I have reduced my minutes to the 200 family share plan on their “Free till 2012″ promo, and pay their $20. data (another promo), and use Verizon for everything else.

        What surprises me is, T-Mobile just upgrades everyone else from 3G to 4G, and forgets about their 2G areas. And wonders why their customer base isn’t higher.

        I plan to move just a few minutes down the road to a major metropolitan city once my lease here is up, and there, T-Mobile has their 4G, and I can finally get what I am paying for, and be a proud & happier T-Mobile customer again.

    • http://Website ScuroRaven

      I recently changed from T-mobile to AT&T. T-mobile was fine as long as i stayed in the Tulsa or Oklahoma City Metro areas. was very spotty in between the two. Went to New Mexico last year with some friends, and At&t was the only one out of the big 4 that kept a signal.

      With t-mobile, before 3g I had no problems at all. When 3g came the quality and coverage area seemed to drop, and got even worse after 4G. Verizon barely covers The oklahoma city metro (( or at least did as of Aug of last year)) Sprint seems to have better coverage then Verizon, but I work downtown, and there is very little coverage.

      So, for me AT&T is the best option. Despite their poor customer service, and borderline illegal sales practices (( false advertising about speed do to data caps for example)) , they still have the best coverage for Oklahoma, and the area’s of other states I have visited.

  • http://Website dagamer34

    HSPA+ is enabled in Texas (at least in Houston where I am) as I’ve seen speeds of 5/1 on my iPhone 4. Now of course, location matters as I expect SXSW to be a clusterf#( for bandwidth, but we’ll see what happens.

    • Taylor Wimberly

      Yeah I’ve traveled all over Texas this month and had HSPA+ signal everywhere on the Atrix. I never saw speeds above 3 Mbps, but they also rarely dropped below 2 Mbps just about anywhere along the I35 corridor. T-Mobile has faster speeds in the major cities, but AT&T absolutely owns the rest of the state.

      • http://Website Zack Nebbaki

        @Taylor Did you get my message ?

  • Uncemister

    Aww that’s sad to see that AT&T customers were actually expecting something better lol.

    • http://Website ur moma

      lol ikr =+) took dem long enough to learn……………………

  • http://Website nate957

    Taylor, are you still loving your Atrix “4G”???

    I think T-mobile’s G2 and Mytouch 4G are currently much better options, as they have a way faster 4G network and since those phones are made by HTC, they don’t have an encyrpted bootloader.

    -posted from my G2 with CM7 with true 4G!!!

    • http://Website Mark

      It’s sad that Taylor bit the bait of dual core that AT&T threw out for him just to bait him into their network.

  • http://Website Semajhan

    Att < t mobile
    Att < verizon
    Att idk

    • http://Website Semajhan

      Wow where did my other line go.
      Att < sprint

  • http://Website Zack Nebbaki

    So the person who started the whole thing doesn’t get mentioned lol
    Sign the petition:

  • http://Website droe411

    Well getting the cap off my Inspire wasn’t all that hard. Rooted, then installed a custom Rom. Now I get 6 down and 1.3 up. Don’t fret over thinhs that can be fixed by XDA.

  • http://Website Danny

    On the Nexus One in SF (cyanogen 2.3.3) and I get about 2.3Mbps to 3.5 download & 1.3Mbps to 1.8 upload and I was hoping to get the Atrix4G but if they are “locking” that device to certain bandwidth then I’ll be looking at the Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II, that way I’m not locked to AT&T’s “restrictions”…

  • nwbee

    In other countries like indonesia, we only got 600 kbps (Up/Down) for mobile broadband and it costs $25. we still happy with that

    • Drew

      Cool story, but we’re talking about an American company here.

  • http://Website Richard Yarrell

    This is clearly a situation that android owners of devices should complain they pay there monthly bills and should be able TO USE THERE DEVICES AS THEY SEEM FIT. WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT STUPID THINGS LIKE THIS…I openly applaud SPRINT AND THERE EFFORTS TO KEEP ALL THERE 4G DEVICES OWNERS HAPPY..Not only happy with fresh devices on a yearly basis but happy because NO DATA CAPPS EXIST and happy because on the NOW NETWORK WE ARE ABLE TO USE OUR DEVICES AS THEY ARE INTENDED AND THEY ENCOURAGE THAT BECAUSE WE PAY FOR IT…..At&t…HAS NEVER MEANT ANDROID WELL nor have they every INVESTED ANYTHING INTO THE PLATFORM…..They have there head SO FAR UP THE ASS OF APPLE THAT IT IS APPAULING…..SPRINT RULES AND SO DOES THE EVO 4G THE TRUE 4G DEVICE SINCE JUNE 2010…..The HTC EVO 4G is what represents ANDROID and has done it well for 9months now. And SPRINT is who started this 4g market in the first place and it is them that have ALL THE BEST 4G DEVICES ON THE MARKET….

    • http://Website ant

      It’s their, not there. Just saying.

  • http://Website Anthony

    The fact is they prey on the ignorant. The majority aren’t as keen as we are. I got an atrix dual core its the superman of phones dude.
    Yeah but att stuck kryptonite up its ass
    The new trend sell these super phones and throttle data pointless
    T-Mobile NYC every day 330 till 8 data on nexus s 900kb down other times 4m easy

  • http://Website Bill

    I think the whole line about not wanting to “overload” their system with the “flood” of new 4g phones is such a line of BS. I’m sure a large majority of new 4g phone owners are current customers anyway. Leaving upload speeds as they were which for me was in the 1.3m/up range doesn’t translate into any increased load on the system. It would just be the same load. Typical corporate double talk. BTW I work in Providence which is supposed to be a 4g city and the speeds are still capped.

    • http://Website WickedToby741

      It is a 4G city, AT&T just isn’t letting you have 4G despite owning and paying for a 4G phone. Its great to have a carrier that has your back isn’t it?

  • http://Website Darwin

    It’s not rocket science. AT&T disables HSUPA on all of their devices even though many are capable. AT&T does not control the firmware on the iPhone at all so they cannot disable it. Simple and easy explanation.

    • http://Website nate957

      Apple is paying AT&T so then AT&T makes their Android phones suck.

  • http://Website Miguel

    Unfortunately the vast majority of the sheep will not care about this. Look at how the blogs and Engadget constantly criticize T-Mobile’s 4G ads that attack the iPhone and the AT&T and Verizon data speeds. The ads a friggin factual and they deserve criticism?

    The fact is that T-Mobile DOES HAVE have a faster network. Let me run a speed test on my old Nexus One… 3.32 mbps download and 0.89 mbps upload. The upload speed is lower than normal since I regularly get 1.2 or 1.3 upload.

    I accept your point that AT&T does have wider coverage with HSPA+. But if you spend most of your time in the city, T-Mobile is usually the better option in terms of raw speeds. If you go through all those DogFight videos featuring T-Mobile android phones that PhoneDog puts up on YouTube, you’ll see that T-Mobile wins the speedtests.. all of them.. versus Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon.

    • http://Website Darwin

      They loose in coverage and device selection though so……..

      • http://Website B2L

        Sorry it’s lose not loose. But that’s not even the case at all. Tmobile has the nexus s, Galaxy s 4g, vibrant, MyTouch 4g, g2, and soon enough they will get the Galaxy S 2, optimus 2x, and HTC pyramid.

        • Galen20K

          Exactly!! T-Mobile has a fantastic selection of phones and it’s only getting better by the month. Not to mention the FASTEST mobile broadband. : )

        • http://Website ScuroRaven

          Sorry it’s lose not loose. But that’s not even the case at all. Tmobile has the nexus s, Galaxy s 4g, vibrant, MyTouch 4g, g2, and soon enough they will get the Galaxy S 2, optimus 2x, and HTC pyramid.

          Mytouch, and HTC pyramid are both good phones, all the rest you listed are junk. According to friends if mine that work for Tmo, the others are not worth the money.

      • http://Website revs

        cuz im pretty sure the mt4g has been the most powerful phone for a while now
        also have the vibrant 4g (fastest phone.!
        and a whole shitload of superphones coming veryy soon

    • http://Website DROID

      There have been several tests done by private groups showing that T-mobiles 4g is slower then both Verizon and At&T. Those tests show At&t > Verizon > T-Mobile > Sprint.

      However if you factor in Current 4G coverage, Data Caps, and so on.. The results are like this.

      T-Mobile > Sprint > Verizon > AT&T.

      If They would remove the Speed Caps, and get their 4G coverage going then At&T’s 4G would be what they claim it to be.

  • http://Website Splendor

    Is this the part where we all say “I told you so”?

  • http://Website RCtennis3811

    Taylor, I just thought I’d comment since I was considering moving to an Atrix from an iPhone 4…and I’m in Texas as well.

    Ever since I got the iPhone 4 last summer, I have experienced great speeds throughout Texas. In fact, in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, I regularly average 4-5Mbps with lots of bursts up to 6Mbps. That alone suggests to me that most of AT&T’s home state has enhanced backhaul. Why the Atrix and Inspire are capped is beyond any of us…

  • http://Website WickedToby741

    So basically AT&T rushed their 4G phones onto the market so they weren’t the only ones without 4G. Then they push out ads bragging about their 4G speeds. But low and behold, the current crop of 4G phones are crippled because AT&T’s network can’t yet handle them. AT&T knew their network was not ready, but pushed the devices out anyways and sold them to people actually expecting 4G speeds. Take advantage of your customers much? I may pay more for Verizon, but I get what I pay for and thats a lot better service and a carrier who isn’t going to sell me a crippled device. The whole reason the Thunderbolt launch has been delayed is because Verizon is still tweaking its performance. AT&T is very dishonest to their customers and thats why I’ll never be among them.

  • http://Website revs

    wow what a joke this makes no sense !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i average 6mbsup 2 down and ive gotten 12mbs early mornings
    i use my free mobile hotspot for my home internet connection and its flawless
    (in nyc)
    anyone who dissagrees is just a hater my nieghbor has the evo and averages 2mbs on wimax
    my droid2 and moms droid x average 1mbs up
    att …..dont even get me started
    right now t-mobile is the best bet just give it up already seriously this is gettin pathetic !

    • http://Website zcarman

      Just a quick side note… My EVO on that ‘slow’ WiMAX network pulls down 9.5MB in my home town and yes, does have a 1MB up cap, but seriously, what do we upload that needs to go that fast?

      I think T-Mo has some excellent coverage, but if you live in Clear’s backyard, the coverage is pretty stinking awesome on Sprint too…

      • http://Website revs

        wow thats great 9mbs!??
        i only get that after midnight in ny on weekdays lol
        i agree ab the 1mbs up
        my neighbors evo does no where near that

  • http://Website Nate

    I have the at&t nexus one and my mom just got the inspire and my unofficial 3g phone blows her “4g” phone out of the water in speed tests. Its not really an issue for her just sending the occasional email but it really bothers me seeing as I’m eventually gonna upgrade and don’t want to shell out 500 bucks again. I’m more disappointed in at&t now than ever.

  • http://Website revs

    Me and a co worker just tried google voice “navigate to smith and wollensky steakhouse new york city” mt4g took approx 4secs captivate connection timed out 3 times …that’s in nyc! Cmon att step it up..and its not the phone galaxy s phones r great

  • http://Website eathon

    lol just tested my evo and im in omaha ne, we dont even have 4g and i still get 1.1 mbps down and .75 mbps up. thats sitting in my my room with only 1 to 2 bars depending upon where im sitting. I think that says something about sprint.

  • http://Website BarryS

    I have checked the data speed on my Inspire 4G running in the San Francisco Bay Area, where AT&T claims it has it’s HDSPA (HSPA+) running with backhaul. My typical HSPA+ speeds are 3.4Mbps down and .31Mbps up. That’s a significant departure from the AT&T propaganda.

    No question that the AT&T 4G network is really 3.5G at best. In fact, the same speed tests on my HTC Aria (which is only 3G) yields similar through put of 3.3 up and 0.3 down.

    Seems that AT&T’s only hope of reaching the 4G speeds of TMO was to buy the company! Unfortunately, that buyout will take a year to complete, plus TMO is running their 4G on 1700MHz and AT&T is running theirs on 1900MHz.

    Interesting note: AT&T claims their 3G network is running on 850/1900 MHz, when in fact, only the 1900 MHz leg is working in most areas. 850 MHz has the ability to penetrate dense structures like homes and office buildings. Without the lower frequency operating in the data network, it is a small wonder that all other carriers have 3G networks that work better in office buildings than AT&T. AT&T still has the guts to advertise that they have “the fastest 3G network”. NOT IN THIS UNIVERSE!


    • http://Website Shawn

      Um, AT&T hasn’t said their 4G is live just that it will be faster. They are building hype and propaganda never once have they said it was working right this second.

  • http://Website Shawn

    I just looked at that video,

    The Iphone 4 was in Mbps, the Motorla Atrix 4G was in kpbs. I hope you all realize that the Motorola 4G phone beat the iPhone in that test.

    iPhone 4 in this video moved @ 1.99 Mbps on the download that is 2,037 kpbs, it also moved @ 1.27 Mbps on the upload that is 1300.48 kbps.

    Motorola Atrix 4G in this video moved @ 2961 kbps that is 2.891 Mbps, it also moved @ 165 kbps on the upload that is .161 Mbps.

    I am not sure why it didn’t take the higher numbers on the upload that the video showed of 222 kbps.

    Also his ping with the Motorola isnt good, There is only 1 test to look at.

    Why do you not see several side by side comparisons with results?

    Before you complain about a service dig deeper don’t just jump on a bandwaggon like a lemming.

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