Wednesday, August 22, 2012

AT&T 4G HSPA+ vs True 4G LTE: What Do You Have?

Since different cellular networks use different frequencies and not all antennas and amplifiers cover the same frequencies, one of the very first questions we ask customers when they contact us for help choosing a signal boosting product is "which network do you need to boost signal to?"

Unfortunately, AT&T has made things very confusing for their customers by having two "4G" networks. If you have an AT&T wireless phone, modem, or hotspot, you might have noticed that some of their devices claim to be "4G-capable" while others say "4G LTE," or you may have seen different commercials using various terms to describe their 4G network. If it seems confusing, you're not alone - it definitely is confusing!

Here's the breakdown on AT&T's "4G" network versus their "4G LTE" network:

When AT&T refers to "4G" they are talking about their HSPA+ network, which is not truly 4G. AT&T's 4G HSPA+ network is essentially just a souped-up version of their 3G network. It is faster than 3G, but it's not technically 4G and it uses the same frequencies as their 3G network (800/1900mhz). If you have an AT&T phone or hotspot and you see a "4G" icon by your signal bars, you are connected to the HSPA+ network. For example, AT&T iPhone 4S users will see a 4G indicator when they're in an HSPA+ coverage area:

4G LTE, on the other hand, is a true 4G (fourth generation) mobile broadband technology. It is a brand new network that AT&T is currently in the process of deploying; it's not available in nearly as many locations as 3G or HSPA+, and there are only a few devices that are LTE-capable so far. LTE is MUCH faster than 3G or 4G HSPA+, and it uses a different frequency: 700mhz.

If you're shopping for a 4G antenna or amplifier for your AT&T device, it's very important that you confirm whether you're using 4G HSPA+ or 4G LTE, so you can make sure you're buying a compatible signal booster. Luckily, AT&T does display the network you're connected to on any device - for example, the Elevate hotspot below is connected to 4G LTE (you can see the "4G LTE" icon next to the signal bars in the upper left corner; if you were connected to 4G HSPA+ it would just say "4G"):