Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
The Internet Wireless Networking Technology

How AT&T Totally Flubbed 4G 199

adeelarshad82 writes "Turns out that AT&T may be lying about 4G. The company's two '4G' phones and its '4G' modem don't deliver 4G even by AT&T's own standards. In fact, test results show that the company is delivering '4G' devices that are actually slower than the carrier's own 3G devices. So how can they get away with this? Well, initially the International Telecommunications Union defined 4G as a bunch of super-fast technologies nobody used yet, but the ITU crumbled under pressure from various cell phone companies and now defines 4G as any cellular Internet network that's faster than what was considered the fastest technology in 2009. Between the revised 4G standards and a little fine print in its ads, AT&T is able to legally indemnify itself against the fact that its current 4G claim is totally worthless. While other carriers also claim that they have 4G networks, Verizon's LTE is the only technology which comes close to real 4G."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How AT&T Totally Flubbed 4G

Comments Filter:
  • Standards bodies have become nothing but the whore of businesses.
    • Re:Patectic ITU (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lev13than ( 581686 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @04:53PM (#35484094) Homepage

      Standards bodies have become nothing but the whore of businesses.

      The main problem with standards is that they aren't.

      • Standards bodies have become nothing but the whore of businesses.

        The main problem with standards is that they aren't.

        Standards, like rules, are meant to be broken...

        ...depending on who you are.

      • by murdocj ( 543661 )
        The best thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.
    • Re:Pathetic ITU (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday March 14, 2011 @05:05PM (#35484246) Homepage Journal

      What's more, the ICU charges a small fortune for said standards documents.

      Part of the blame is on the ICU - the carriers started advertising 4G before the standards came out, forcing the standards to meet the claims. This is no different from how Netscape and Microsoft killed HTML 3.1 when it finally came out and forced the W3C to adopt a nonsensical bunch of crap as a replacement. The fragmentation that followed permitted Microsoft to kill Netscape and caused much of the crap that followed. The W3C will be picking up the pieces for years.

      Standards bodies should be flexible but they must ultimately be the law enforcement of all technology and crafts. They are the modern version of the guild hall, the corporations are merely the apprentices within.

      • Standards bodies should be flexible but they must ultimately be the law enforcement of all technology and crafts. They are the modern version of the guild hall, the corporations are merely the apprentices within.

        Like The Sorcerer's Apprentice []?

    • Re:Patectic ITU (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Timmmm ( 636430 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @05:08PM (#35484294)

      Rubbish. They were too ambitious with their requirements for calling something '4G'. Seriously, 1 Gb/s connections? There was obviously going to be a generation between 10 Mb/s and that. If they had had their way we'd have that 2.75G nonsense all over again.

      Basically now 4G = LTE. I'm fine with that -- especially as it is more than a just a speed upgrade, e.g. it has (supposedly) lower latency, and is fully IP-based.

      • It's 1 gb/s FIXED. 100 mbps mobile. That's not hugely far off from WiMax 1 and LTE. And besides, it has much more to do with the modern implementation of new wireless communication techniques than just speed.
        • by Timmmm ( 636430 )

          Wikipedia says "1 Gbit/s for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users)"

          Given that I, a pedestrian and stationary user, get about 3 Mb/s on 3G, that is a jump of more than 300x. Even accounting for theoretical vs real-world performance it is insane to think that jump is going to happen in one generation of technology. Even fixed network speeds only get 10 times faster per generation.

          • by Teun ( 17872 )
            Hmm, last month my ADSL of 16Mb was upgraded to VDSL with 32Mb, I must be missing out on something :)

            Yes I know it's all DSL but because it's UPC the cable provider's 120Mb is out of the question.

        • by YoopDaDum ( 1998474 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @04:40AM (#35488940)
          It's also BS actually.

          Yes, LTE advance (release 10 of LTE actually, as it's an incremental improvement) has a top Category 8 device that peaks at close to 3 Gbps. Go to and fetch TS 36.306, the categories are in section 4.1. Base LTE goes from Cat1 to 5, and LTE-A added Cat 6 to 8.

          Now you need to know only one thing: the last category is mostly never implemented. These standards are hugely complex, and competition is fierce. So people get carried away and promise the moon. Then engineers in standardization start the serious work, and see what's possible, and it's not the same. So to be polite, the last category is dimensioned to match the silly promises, and nobody implements it as it is too impractical (unacceptable power consumption to start with, reliance on huge spectrum not available and on too many antennas that wouldn't fit in a handset, just as a few examples).. And the lower are made to be practical.

          In basic LTE, the last category 5 was 300 Mbps downlink. What's implemented in practice today is Cat3 at 100 Mbps DL. Maybe some will push to Cat4 (150 Mbps) for bragging rights, but it'll make little difference in the field (we're talking peak rates here, which is only possible on a small part of a cell).
          In LTE-A (R10), the last category 8 is ~3 Gbps DL. And the previous practical categories 6 and 7? Well, they're 300 Mbps. Yes you read it well, that's a factor of 10 difference. That should tell you all you need to know about Gps speed.

          Today, power is already a challenge with WiMAX, which is 2 Rx chains and 10 MHz. LTE is 2 Rx chains and 20 MHz. LTE-A to meet 1 Gbps would need 70 MHz and 4 Rx chains (for 4x4 MIMO in DL) for example. Nobody has this contiguous spectrum, so that means carrier aggregation, at least 2 bands in practice. So you need 8 Rx chains, which draw power. That's a factor of 4 increase on the RF side. And the baseband is more complex too. All that while the first base (R8) LTE handsets are power challenged.

          So please people, get real and use common sense. All this talk of Gpbs speed (even in static) is getting embarrassing. Sure, it's easy to do and perfectly possible on a demo set-up where power and footprint (for all the antennas) are no issue. If you talk real life, it's a different thing.

          Besides this, LTE is still a very good standard a significant improvement on what we have. And LTE-A will also be a significant improvement too. But instead of focusing on silly peak rates, go to the 3GPP web site and look at the performance assessment for LTE-A for cell average. You'll find that LTE advanced is expected to be 40 to 60% more efficient in average than LTE. And this is a big gain.

          Last point, because we're on Slashdot and we can talk real tech, you need to understand that peak rate doesn't matter much now. Seriously, WWAN faster then WiFi (which is also BS with talk of 600 Mbps, but that's a different story. On portable device it's 20 to 30 Mbps typically)? What matters now is handling the data explosion, and this means improving the network capacity. People always push peak rates as it's more sexy for the average Joe, but that's capacity that matters. Even for you. But it's certainly less sexy and harder to explain.
          Still, whenever you hear about higher peak rates, understand that the features underlying the improvement will in practice not be used for higher peak rates, but for increased capacity. Example: MIMO. LTE-A goes up to 8x8 MIMO in Cat8, but that won't be used in mainstream product (and maybe never, as doing a complex chip for a niche market looks very expensive). But you can still have the 8 antennas at the BS, and only 2 at the terminal, and do multi-users MIMO with 4 concurrent users, each using 2 SM MIMO layers. That's really what the standard is made for, and it will increase the network capacity for our benefit.

          Thanks for reading so far. I needed the venting on that topic ;)
      • Well said.

        Where I'm from (South Africa) the "What is 4G" question is a hot topic as it is affecting how operators may or may not advertise their networks.

        Because of this we actually have an official statement from the ITU which basically states that while they don't necessarily endorse the use of 4G for non IMT-Advanced networks, they acknowledge that networks are going to do (and have done) so.

        I also have the GSMA on record saying that they think that LTE will be considered 4G, even though it technically

  • 4G is in the eye of the beholder. As it always was.
    • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      Beauty? fear? death? sleep? anti-magic? disintegration? transformation? levitation? slowness? suffering? Sure.

      Now they get WIMAX as well?

      • You can always have a face to face with them about it, I hear they enjoy meetings.
      • Don't you mean: Charm Monster, Charm Person, Disintegrate, Fear, Finger of Death, Flesh to Stone, Inflict Moderate Wounds, Sleep, Slow, Telekinesis, and Antimagic Cone.

        I had to use 3.5 stats since I can't find an old v1 mm.

        (Contrary to popular belief, they do have a blind spot, unfortunately it's directly beneath them.)
        • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

          I was going for a more artistic interpretation, and only rattling off a few that popped into my head, but yes.

    • I'm holding out for 6G Bieber Fever.

      • I'm holding out for 6G Bieber Fever.

        I'm waiting for 640G. It's all anyone will ever need. ;-)

      • Popular with tween girls, but otherwise completely useless?
  • News of the Hour Corporations Lying hear more at 11. Honestly I am not even surprised I look at almost anything that's advertised these days and I'm so jaded I can't help but think what's the catch. Even on simple things like 2 for the price of 1 taco sales.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      This is the real downfall of society. We have so little care for the truth that we now take as a given that any business offer is a lie.

      Good morning you say? What's the catch?

      • This is the real downfall of society. We have so little care for the truth that we now take as a given that any business offer is a lie.

        Some of us do. Despite my attempts to explain this to my mother, she still believes that "50% off today only" signs are true, and that the original price wasn't marked up to compensate, even if she goes past the same shop every day and the sign is still there. Only yesterday she was explaining to me how she absolutely had to get two of these kids toys for my kids because they were "2 for $20" and it was "$16.95 for 1" and "such a bargain at that price"... and yet again because I explained the reality that t

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Many individuals do care, but feel powerless to fight the tide of lies. If we as a society did, then the liars would face real legal sanctions and proper enforcement such that it would be unprofitable to lie.

          I have a feeling that one day the public's threshold of pain will be crossed and there'll be hell to pay.

  • This is innovation (Score:5, Informative)

    by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @04:53PM (#35484080)

    I'm sure glad our government doesn't kill innovation by forcing carriers like AT&T to actually deliver on the promises they advertise for their networks. AT&T is free to "innovate" a way to sell the same crap with a shiny new label.

  • Public relations.

    Also helps to have a non-discerning customer base who are too willing to believe every iteration is better than the last instance.

  • by brenddie ( 897982 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @04:58PM (#35484156)
    the 3gees are no longer fashionable. 4gees wheres at now. even managed to offer less bandwidth with this "upgrade". AT&T has customer screwing down to a science
    • Now AT&T is being shady... but people are like sheep when it comes to "latest and greatest" technology. Have you seen the Best Buy ad, where they say you can trade in your outdated technology for the new stuff? They show people buying something brand new, and then they immediately see something "better". It's ridiculous, but people buy into that crap.

      Someone called my phone a dinosaur. It's an LG something that I make calls with and occasionally listen to MP3s with. It's only about 5 years old... b

  • LIES!


  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @05:01PM (#35484188) Homepage
    This whole "G" stuff has been vague, undefinable nonsense from the beginning, or at least since before anyone outside of the telecom industry had heard the term. The debates about whether EDGE was 2G or 2.5G (as if generations were subject to real/fractional values) was proof enough of this. Calling the 2nd iPhone model the "iPhone 3G" has proven to be a misstep on Apple's part, rather effectively confusing the heck out of its model generations, and forcing them to resort to nonsense like "3Gs" before reverting to something more sensible: an integer indicating which generation of the device it is. How about calling a phone technology by... its name. LTE, CDMA, EDGE, ETC. If you want to make a boast about how fast it is, do it like they used to do with modems: give us an actual numeric speed (e.g. 1200bps, 19.2kbps). Because this xG marketing nonsense is useless... and always has been.
    • Because this xG marketing nonsense is useless... and always has been.

      As long as it sells units and makes money it has a purpose.

      You're just not ruthless or cynical enough to see that.

      As for me, I'm jaded by the knowledge.

    • If you want to make a boast about how fast it is, do it like they used to do with modems: give us an actual numeric speed (e.g. 1200bps, 19.2kbps).

      You mean like the 56k modems that couldn't legally do 56k, they were capped at 53.something? Or the 56k modems that wouldn't achieve even 53.something unless you were on a pristine copper pair 30 feet from the central office? You mean honesty like that?

      Or honesty like Qwest, who advertises all their speeds for DSL in 'megs'. Forty smeggin' megs of what? Bits? Bytes? Bauds?

    • There was no debate, and there is no 2.5G standard. EDGE is 3G. It was first, so better 3G followed... then came the marketing term "2.5G" to separate the better 3G from EDGE.
    • Verizon is sort of trying to do this. They are calling it 4G LTE which at least tells you which technology you're dealing with.

      I forget which one Sprint uses or if it's 4G at all, same with T-Mobile.

  • In the wired internet landscape, one number matters to this day... bps. When it was about modems, there were some slight variations in speed, but it was all about bps of your modem and the max bps of the carrier. Comcast beat Verizon DSL like a redheaded stepchild with bps until Verizon came out with FIOS, and Verizon returned the favor. They keep exchanging blows as to who is faster, but you can look up clearly on their website and find out which was faster. bps is like MPH, you know what it was and could explain it to someone simply.

    However, this 3G/4G crap is just like the Justin Bieber/Ozzy Ozborne commercial. It's rapidly changing, confusing and stupid. The only reason to call something 3G vs 4G is to create new marketing speak. So I say kill the xG tag. Phones should be rated by how fast they can go, period, not by some nebulous xG bullshit. It only serves to confuse the customer and make it seem like it's better even though it's not, and thus give companies a reason to ever increase their prices unnecessarily.

    • The only reason to call something 3G vs 4G is to create new marketing speak. So I say kill the xG tag.

      The latter won't happen because of the former.

      You, myself and every other person with subject matter knowledge know its completely retarded ... but the general population doesn't, and the marketers are throwing far more resources at it than we have to return fire with.

      They've won this round, we'll have to wait until Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T or some other carrier has a distinct advantage and can provide the bandwidth consistently so they have a reason to go back to real values rather than marketingspeak.

    • by Mitsoid ( 837831 )

      Except bps does not factor in well with their network styles. When I had cable (worst 4 years of my internet experience... worse then even $2/hour AOL in the early 90's), my speeds were inconsistent, and frequently below 200kb/s when advertised as a 3mbps line

      Since I switched to DSL, and then FIOS, I've seen a lot better consistancy in the speeds and lines. Perhaps it was a massive network mistake for my cable company in my area, but I never got 1/2 the advertised rate, even at 3am... Since then i've been c

      • by hellfire ( 86129 )

        Yes but my point is that the 3G/4G tag adds even MORE confusion by creating an abstract layer. With cable and DSL, for cable to not get sued they had to say "speeds up to blahblah." They are weasel words, but there's not much you can do, it's still plain english, and the populace can quickly learn "oh wait... they said 'up to', sounds like marketing to me." It's just easier to catch the weasiliness and make a better informed decision. 4G is not plain english, it's an entire specification which has been

  • My sister was all hyped up to get the Sprint 4G phone. Only to find out there was no 4G coverage in her area (Phoenix metro area).
  • Lies, damn lies, statistics and marketing.

  • Thats the PHONE COMPANY. When did they ever meet anyone's expectations for very long? When did a regular customer not feel ripped off? When did the failure consumer protection, anti-trust laws, and monopoly markets ever feel like a good deal with a capital G?

    Can you hear me now? Was that a pin that dropped? You just paid another $4G's for another 2Y contract for the very same FREE electrons that were once broadcast into Gilligan's Island reruns on channel 2. Now we're paying for that network bandwidt
  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @05:30PM (#35484572)

    I have a 7G phone. I just took out a sharpie and wrote 7 G's on it. You may now bow to my 7G superiority.

    BTW, the volume on my stereo goes to 11.

    Now, if you will excuse me I need to return to surfing on my "50meg" hi-speed internet connection.

  • 3G and 4G are both marketing terms under the guise of technical specifications, using the minimum of actual specifications. It's like defining a particular fastener as "a length of material with a pointy end." Nobody can use that specification to create anything useful, or say anything about the product that technically meets that specification. The standards for both 3G and 4G are so broad as to be essentially useless for anything other than marketing, which is just the way the telcos want it. They wan

    • It's like defining a particular fastener as "a length of material with a pointy end."

      You just hit the nail on the head!

      • It's like defining a particular fastener as "a length of material with a pointy end."

        You just hit the nail on the head!

        I dunno ... sounds screwy to me.

  • In spite of what the intentional vague summary may hint at, this is all about upstream bandwidth, not downstream. AT&T's "4G" devices are competitive with similar HSPA+ 14.4 devices when it comes to downstream bandwidth, which is why TFA doesn't even bother to mention it. It's upstream bandwidth that's capped: everything but the iPhone 4 is capped at 384Kbps.

    However from AT&T's perspective they didn't flub 4G. As far as they're concerned they're running a content delivery network, not a content crea

    • I'd mod you up if I currently had mod points. The summary is garbage by not mentioning that it is upload speeds only that they are talking about. 99% of people are almost exclusively going to care about download speed.
    • The perfectly non-blocking network is very asymmetrical -- every node would have inbound bandwidth equal to the sum of all outbound bandwidth from every node - e.g., a thousand node network, each node having a gigabit input and a megabit output. While this asymmetry is impractical in all but the smallest networks, it still influences networks architectures for the obvious reason.

      BTW, the phone company (a.k.a., AT&T) has a business model based upon measured services, a 100-year tradition. They even
  • I live in a so-called AT&T "4G" area with HSPA+ coverage. My shiny new HTC Inspire 4G gets 1,200 kbps down and 400 kbps up when I run the speed test application on it. My old iPhone 3G averaged 1,800 down and 600 up in the same area six months ago.

  • DSL has CLEARLY defined speeds. You order 10mbs service, the speeds right in the name! Yet it never gets to that speed. No-where near it. Then the ISP claims that speed is inside their network, they can't guarantee the rest of the internet. Yet you can do speed tests to the ISPs own servers and still not even get to 80% of the speed your paying for. How is this legal? How is it that the government lets this kind of thing go on and then try to blaim the problem on the customers themselves or the services the

Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.