Last week, I was in the States and took my U.S. T-Mobile mi-fi-like “4G” broadband device with me to be able to use the Internet on my laptop without running up a huge bill on my U.K. mobile broadband dongle. As it happens, this was probably unnecessary as almost everywhere I went, from hotels to cafes, I had access to a free wireless hotspot. Also, I had arranged for an international data roaming package to be added to my phone so I could use that for simple tasks such as Google Maps, managing to keep it to around 120MB (of a 200MB limit).
I originally purchased the U.S. “4G” device in September and it was quite useful in the past when hotel wi-fi networks have been overcrowded. The latency using the “4G” connection has been great and I’ve had very few issues with network coverage in the major cities I’ve visited, however I have been quite disappointed with the speeds. Although I have not attempted to test the speeds as such, I didn’t find the experience very different to what we have today in the form of 3G (or HSPA/3.5G to be precise) in the U.K. Video streaming did work, but only just, and in-play buffering was commonplace. None of this should be very much of a surprise, since actually the “4G” device is not in fact a 4G (LTE) device at all, but an HSPA+ device! Even though I knew of the incorrect use of the term ’4G’ on the iPhone, I didn’t realise this device was masquerading as 4G as well!
My iPhone 4S was showing me connected to a ’4G’ AT&T network. It took some time to explain to my colleague that the 4S did not in fact have a different chipset from his iPhone 4, capable of 4G service, but it was an illusion as Apple have been persuaded by the U.S. network operator to show ’4G’ because the speeds offered by HSPA+ are similar to some of the lower 4G speeds.
This misrepresentation of 4G is unhelpful and confuses consumers even more when the new iPad is really capable of 4G service (using the LTE standard).