By Stephen Schenck | February 21, 2011 4:04 PM
US 4G service has been off to a confusing start, mired with questions about what technologies are or aren’t “real” 4G, and which carriers can deliver truly next-gen mobile broadband speeds. Even if we can agree that 4G is a fitting label for all of these services, is that alone enough to guarantee the promised bandwidth? We’ve noticed some problems with the HTC Inspire 4G on AT&T claiming a 4G connection without delivering the speed we were looking for. It turns out the Inspire 4G isn’t taking advantage of HSUPA enhanced upload speeds, despite an apparent lack of hardware limitations.
We looked at how the Inspire 4G shows its “H+” icon indicating an HSPA+ 4G connection, even when a speed test shows the phone performing a sub-3G levels. When contacted, AT&T responded with a description of the current state of its HSPA+ network, but didn’t address why the phone reported 4G access when it clearly wasn’t reaching its speed targets. While the download speeds we tested were disappointing, the upload speeds were just abysmal. It turns out that, even though any chipset that’s qualified for HSPA+ should also handle HSUPA, offering upload speeds as high as 5.8Mbps, the Inspire 4G doesn’t have this capability enabled.
Engadget reached out to its AT&T sources for some more insight into what’s going on here. The most promising theory is that a firmware upgrade could enable HSUPA in the future, but that leaves unaddressed the question of why such a powerful feature was turned-off in the first place. It doesn’t seem like AT&T’s network is to blame, with other smartphones rocking HSUPA without a hitch.
We can’t say why the Inspire 4G has shipped in such an apparently crippled fashion, but we really wish AT&T was at least more forthcoming about the phone’s capabilities. While the carrier, to its credit, doesn’t advertise the phone as having HSUPA support, try explaining to someone without a technical background why their new 4G phone can’t send files as quickly as a 3G model. If AT&T wants to simplify its high-speed wireless offerings under a blanket “4G” label, it sure as sugar better deliver a next-gen-quality service, across the board.