How AT&T is ruining 4G

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: April 21, 2011

A wireless carrier is rarely ever equipped with a clean slate. In one way or another, something is usually tarnishing their name. AT&T has been the focus point for a lot of people over the last few years, especially after the wildly successful launch of the iPhone. The carrier’s network in certain locations in the United States, namely San Francisco and New York City, seemed to take heavy hits due to huge traffic hikes. But now that the iPhone is available on another carrier, there's a point here that AT&T can regain some network strength, and show it off with their step up to 4G. However, this high-speed upload situation for their AT&T-branded devices is developing into a joke, with the Samsung Focus the newest addition to the punch-line.

The HSUPA drama started earlier this year, right after the launch of the wireless carrier’s 4G-enabled devices. While the handsets are powerful in their own right, people were expecting 4G speeds when they used the devices, but AT&T wasn’t allowing the handsets to access high-speed uploads. It went on and on, with AT&T denying that they were capping anything, to the company eventually saying that they had to do some extra testing and that future devices would be enabled with the service out of the box.

And for the most part, it seems that AT&T is sticking to their guns on this one. While we already know that the iPhone 4 is capable of high-speed uploads, and as of right now it seems that AT&T is content with this. However, the wireless carrier is intending on making their 4G-enabled devices capable of the faster speeds, and that seems to be a step in the right direction. But, as I've noted in the past, this doesn't seem like a legitimate strategy to go about things. We've seen the wireless carrier keep the general consumer in the dark regarding their 4G devices, and to me it seems that if you're trying to sell your network as moving faster, you may need more than one device capable of accessing those speeds.

So how does the Samsung Focus come into all of this? It's a strange story, but it is one that shows that the modding community for these handsets is a loud one. While officially the Samsung Focus doesn't feature HSUPA, some owners were able to tinker and access the faster upload speeds on their devices. Of course, this isn't what AT&T (or Samsung, by default) intended out of the box, and so reports coming after the release of the NoDo update for Windows Phone 7 on AT&T's network for the Focus disabling HSUPA are affecting a very limited number of people. But, these people are loud, and making it seem like this is a widespread issue. One that's affecting all Focus owners.

There's no denying that AT&T has a lot of work to do on their 4G network, and we're not talking about laying down the infrastructure to get it working. While people are upset about their 4G devices not being able to access 4G speeds on the upload side of things, AT&T has to not only define what their 4G is speed wise, but also which devices can access it. And, if a particular device can't access it, why not ? Especially if it's got that 4G tacked on there.

AT&T’s going to keep doing what they’re doing, but do you think their position in all of this is wrong? Or do you think they’re allowed to do whatever they want, even if they aren’t being clear about the reasons? Let me know what you think in the comments below.