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11/4/2010
09:12 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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AT&T And Sprint Fire Back At T-Mobile

AT&T said if T-Mobile is going to qualify HSPA+ as "4G", then AT&T's HSPA+ network would be the nation's largest and fastest. Sprint had some choice words for T-Mobile, too.

As expected, T-Mobile is seeing some push back from its competitors after claiming its HSPA+ network is the country's largest and fastest 4G network. AT&T and Sprint both offered comments on T-Mobile's claims, signaling that the battle over 4G has begun.

T-Mobile's exact claims are that its HSPA+ network will cover 200 million Americans by the end of the year, which is more than the 4G networks being offered by AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. T-Mobile also claims that its 21Mbps HSPA+ network is faster than WiMax and LTE, making it the speediest. AT&T heartily disagrees.

In an email to InformationWeek, an AT&T spokesperson said, "T-Mobile's claims about 4G are based on the same HSPA+ technology we have deployed to 180 million people today, more than T-Mobile’s reported 140 million, and we’ll have it rolled out to 250 million people by the end of this month, substantially more than the 200 million T-Mobile says it will have by year-end." In other words, AT&T says that if HSPA+ is 4G as T-Mobile claims, than its HSPA+ network is the largest.

Not only is it the largest, but it is also the fastest, according to AT&T. AT&T told InformationWeek that its HSPA+ network is not capped at 14.4Mbps as T-Mobile claims. AT&T indicated that its HSPA+ network is actually capable of the theoretical max downloads of 21Mbps. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to prove that.

If there's one thing T-Mobile has going for its "4G" network, it's the availability of two HSPA+ capable handsets and an HSPA+ capable laptop dongle. "4G is about performance and today T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is delivering 4G speeds that match and often beat WiMAX and are readily comparable to what early LTE will deliver. Our 4G network is capable of theoretical speeds up to 21Mbps and we have seen average download speeds approaching 5Mbps on our myTouch 4G phone in some cities with peak speeds of nearly 12Mbps. Further, independent reviewers have seen average download speeds on our webConnect Rocket between 5 and 8Mbps with peak speeds up to 8-10Mbps," said Neville Ray, chief technology officer, T-Mobile USA.

AT&T, on the other hand, doesn't have any 21Mbps HSPA+ handsets. In fact, it doesn't have any 14.4Mbps HSPA+ handsets, either. Instead, AT&T's 3G handsets are limited to the 7.2Mbps variety of HSPA+.

The fastest download I've achieved using AT&T's network is 3.3Mbps. The fastest download I've achieved using T-Mobile's is 5.3Mbps. Which one is faster, AT&T?

AT&T's ace in the hole? LTE. AT&T is launching LTE in mid-2011. T-Mobile isn't. "Now that our HSPA+ speed upgrade is underway, we’re focused on the next upgrade to make our fastest network even faster – and that’s LTE, which we’re trialing now and will launch in 2011," said AT&T's spokesperson.

As for Sprint, its 4G president Matt Carter said, "Halloween is over--it's time for T-Mobile to stop dressing up like their favorite super hero--Sprint 4G."

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