The Technology of AT&T 4G
Features and Plans
Currently AT&T does not offer mobile wireless Internet plans that connect to their 4G network. They do have home high-speed Internet plans, that include DSL, cable and access to their thousands of AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots, but they don’t offer true on-the-go Internet to non-business customers at this point.
AT&T does offer bundles on their services including high-speed home Internet, digital phone service, and DIRECTV service, or combinations of those three.
AT&T has a few flexible plans to access their Wi-Fi hotspots. You can connect to one for a small fee and get access for a day or so, or you can pay a monthly subscription fee and have unlimited access to any hotspot—useful if you travel often.
Technically AT&T doesn’t have a full 4G network, it’s more like 3.5G, and if you look carefully at their marketing, most of it says things like “4G speeds” instead of outright saying it’s a 4G network. Their “like 4G” speeds are still fast though, and the company has announced plans to fully upgrade their HSPA+ network by 2013. Right now their HSPA+ network is similar to T-Mobile’s offering in terms of speed and availability. So to break it down: their 3G network is an HSPA network, while their upgraded network offering 4G speeds is HSPA+. Instead of continuing to boost that network, AT&T plans to upgrade their HSPA+ network to an LTE network (a system that competitor Verizon is putting into place now) in the future.
Despite the pop culture complaints of dropped calls, AT&T’s 3G coverage is quite comprehensive. Their HSPA+ network coverage is also expanding in line with other 4G competitors—offering coverage in several major cities. Unlike some carriers, AT&T’s network allows smartphone customers to talk and use data services at the same time. A map on AT&T’s website indicates that faster mobile broadband services will be available by March 31, 2011.
As of February 2011, AT&T is not offering any 4G devices, instead their website indicates a number of smartphones coming soon, like the HTC Inspire 4G, the Motorla Atrix 4G, and the Samsung Infuse 4G, all of which run on Google’s Android operating system. They also have an AT&T USBConnect Shockwave 4G-capable mobile wireless device available, though the markets it is available have yet to be announced.