T-Mobile stretching the truth on '4G' speeds

T-Mobile is touting its Android myTouch smartphone and "lightning fast 4G speeds," but the claims are based on theoretical benchmarks you'll never hit in the real world.

T-Mobile on Monday is out touting its Android myTouch smartphone and "lightning fast 4G speeds," but the claims are based on theoretical benchmarks you'll never hit in the real world.

T-Mobile has been upgrading its networks with High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) technology to boost speeds. AT&T also uses a flavor of HSPA.

The catch: HSPA is rarely referred to as a 4G technology until you get to T-Mobile's press release. 4G refers to WiMax and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology. In fact, AT&T references HSPA as a nice upgrade, but a bridge technology to a larger LTE rollout in 2011.

So how does T-Mobile thread this 4G needle? It's all about the theoretical claims.

In T-Mobile's statement you'll get comments like this from Andrew Sherrard, vice president of product management at T-Mobile USA:

"Taking advantage of the 4G speeds on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, the new myTouch delivers a faster and more compelling experience than most competing smartphones on the market. Our continued focus to build innovative new features and personalized services truly makes myTouch unique."

T-Mobile then explains how it has 4G speeds in 65 metro areas. Amazing how T-Mobile got 4G faster than Clearwire, Verizon and AT&T in just a few press releases. The reality is that HSPA+ is more like 3.5G and T-Mobile is basing its 4G claims on theoretical speeds, which don't exactly equate to real-world downloads.

The T-Mobile press release footnote tells the tale:

1 Based on 4G speeds currently available to mobile device users in the U.S. Device has theoretical capability of 14.4 Mbps. HSPA+ coverage is rapidly expanding, but it is not currently available everywhere. For more details on where T-Mobile network coverage is available, please visit http://www.t-mobile.com/coverage.

2 Improved speeds vary, due in part to device capabilities.

Oh, that's quite a disclaimer.

In the real world, WiMax will get you speeds of 1 to 6 Mbps. LTE will get you 6 to 12 Mbps. Verizon has hit 50 Mbps in field trials---the rough equivalent to theoretical speeds. You can find 4G puritans who will argue that WiMax doesn't make the speed cut-off. However, the masses accept WiMax as 4G.

The catch is that no one considers HSPA as 4G---except T-Mobile. Add it up and T-Mobile's 4G claims aren't based in anything resembling reality.

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