T-Mobile announced last night that they would begin branding their HSPA+ network as a 4G network, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before their competitors chimed in. We didn't have to wait long, as both AT&T and Sprint have put their two cents in on the whole situation. First up we have AT&T, who told PhoneScoop that T-Mobile misstated both AT&T's HSPA+ footprint and speeds. ATT explained that their HSPA+ coverage reaches over 180 million people today, with that number growing to 250 million by the end of the month. To compare, T-Mobile says their HSPA+ network will reach 200 million by the end of the year. When it comes to speeds, T-Mo said that AT&T's HSPA+ network is only capable of 14.4Mbps speeds, but AT&T says their network can reach downloads of up to 21Mbps. The thing to consider, though, is that only one device on AT&T is able to access these 21Mbps speeds, and it's a laptop dongle. The fastest speed an AT&T phone can reach is 7.2Mbps. To compare, Magenta has two phones and at least one modem capable of 21Mbps HSPA+ speeds. AT&T implied that they would be changing their comparatively limited selection, but didn't say when that would happen.
Sprint 4G President Matt Carter had some words of his own for T-Mobile and their new 4G network, saying that "Halloween is over--it's time for T-Mobile to stop dressing up like their favorite super hero--Sprint 4G." The No. 3 carrier has long been advertising their WiMAX networks as the "First and Only Wireless 4G from a National Carrier," although, according to the ITU, it's not technically 4G. However, Sprint could eventually upgrade to WiMAX2, which is considered a 4G network by the ITU.
AT&T makes an interesting point when they say that they'll cover 250 million people by the end of the month. While it's definitely nice that they offer speeds of 21Mbps, the fact that they don't have any phones capable of attaining those speeds is a bit of a disappointment. Sprint didn't really make any arguments as to why T-Mobile shouldn't call their network 4G, and according to the ITU, Sprint shouldn't be calling their own network 4G, either. When it comes down to it, 4G is basically just a marketing term to the carriers now; something to help consumers understand that these "4G" networks are faster than 3G. T-Mobile kicked off their 4G ad campaign with a commercial that you can see below, and no matter what the carriers say or bicker about, I doubt we'll see the end of T-Mobile's "4G" branding any time soon.