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11/22/2010
11:03 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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AT&T Fires Marketing Shot At Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile

AT&T brings out its bloviated marketing bazooka and takes aim at its competitors' network speed claims.

T-Mobile recently whipped up a firestorm of criticism for re-branding its HSPA+ 3G network as "4G" instead. T-Mobile did this in order get on the same marketing page as competitors AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, which are all touting 4G networks of their own.

T-Mobile isn't the only company making shady claims. Some say their network is the largest, others the fastest, and yet others the "most advanced." AT&T's note to the press today doesn't make the message any clearer.

According to AT&T, third-party tests "scientifically prove" that AT&T's mobile broadband network is the country's fastest by a wide margin. AT&T claims its network is running at least 20% faster than its closest competitor in terms of speed, and 60% faster than its "largest competitor by subscriber count" (a.k.a., Verizon Wireless). The study also concluded that 98.59% of all voice calls made through AT&T's network go through without interruption. (I have to wonder of New York City and San Francisco were completely omitted from the test regions.)

AT&T said these results were derived from Global Wireless Solutions, which drove some 950,000 miles across 400 major U.S. markets, covering 88% of the U.S. population.

AT&T shares some speed comparisons for us to ponder.

For example: based on national average speeds, AT&T customers could download an MP3 album (40 megabytes) more than a minute faster with AT&T than the next-fastest wireless network. An 80-megabyte video file would download about 2 minutes faster on average with AT&T as opposed to the next-fastest network. The same video file would take more than 5 minutes longer to download on average with AT&T's largest competitor's network.
You know what AT&T doesn't share? Actual speed test results. Nowhere in its press note does it reveal what those average and peak download/upload speeds are, not for AT&T's network, not even for its competitors' networks. If the proof is in the pudding, AT&T isn't sharing the pudding.

AT&T did say that it is spending gobs of money to update and improve its network, however. By the time 2010 comes to a close, AT&T says it will have spent between $18 and $19 billion, which includes adding more cell sites, improving the backhaul capabilities at its cell sites, and improving the performance of its cell sites.

Fast is a relative term. AT&T doesn't say anything about the bandwidth capacity at its cell sites (number of connections each site can handle), which is an extremely important factor in using the mobile Internet. AT&T also doesn't say anything about latency, which is how fast the network responds to requests for a connection.

Right now, AT&T officially offers HSPA at 7.2Mbps to properly equipped phones. T-Mobile is offering HSPA+ at 21Mbps, and has two smartphones capable of hitting absurd download speeds.

Maybe AT&T's network truly is the fastest (on average), when you weigh the 950,000 miles of data generated by the study. I don't know, I haven't seen the data.

Fast, large, advanced, whatever. What matters most to consumers is that their network works when and where they need it.

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