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32

Is AT&T dialing back 4G speeds on Windows Phones?

Samsung Focus S Bandwidth Test

There's an interesting discussion going on in the WPCentral Forums concerning HSDPA speeds on the AT&T HTC Titan. Forum Member gtg465x is witnessing faster bandwidth speeds on Android based phone than his HTC Titan. Speeds of 2-3Mbps are being witnessed on the Titan while the Android phones are experiencing 3-4Mbps. In areas where there is advanced backhaul in place the Titan tests at 4Mbps while Android jumps to 8-10Mbps. Likewise, Rob41664 & jawesome are reporting faster speeds with the Focus S over their Titans. According to the discussion, 

After extensive testing, I'm quite positive AT&T is artificially limiting network speed on their version of the Titan by limiting the HSDPA feature set to category 8. The phone hardware of course is able to support HSDPA category 10 features.  

Turns out AT&T has a history of doing this, specifically with the LG Thrill, a "4G" phone set at category 8. People evidently bumped it to 10 and nearly doubled their data throughput. The theoretical maximum throughput for category 10 is 14.1Mbps. The theoretical maximum throughput of category 8 is 7.2Mbps.

So the question is: What is the HSDPA category of AT&T's Windows Phones? We can't actually know, because unlike Anroid, we can't see let alone alter that information. Still, we wanted to see if the Titan was slower than the Focus S.

Dan (NYC) and I (Alabama) both tested out AT&T Titans up against the Samsung Focus S and T-Mobile's HTC Radar (we don't have any Android's here). We both used Bandwidth for the testing and the tests were conducted indoors with the phone untouched during testing. Here's our test results (first number is download speeds, second is upload speeds).

 

  Dan's Titan George's Titan Focus S T-Mobile Radar
Test 1 2.29  / .91 2.39 / .57 2.18 / .46 3.73 / 1.01
Test 2 2.06 / .84 2.34 / .54 2.46 / .42 3.86 / 1.10
Test 3 2.23 / .88 2.45 / .78 2.63 / .47 4.33  / .47

From these results, we so no difference between the Focus S and the Titan--the main concern of the original forum thread. It might not have been a fair fight comparing the Radar with the AT&T Windows Phones but it is clear that AT&T's "4G" speeds pale in comparison to T-Mobiles--important if you're considering a new network. Moreover, it is obvious that AT&T "4G" Windows Phones don't really get very fast speeds, whatever their settings may be.

However, if Android devices are testing at 8-10Mbps, or even 4Mbps, could AT&T be dialing back bandwidth on Windows Phone in general with a lower HSDPA category? Or is it something else?

Thanks goes out to Tommy for tipping us on this!

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Comments

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simbadogg says:

Lemme get this straight. To do a "4g" comparison test on whether or not at&t is artificially limiting download speeds on windows phone devices, you grabbed a HTC Titan (at&t windows phone) a samsung focus s (at&t also windows phone) and a Tmobile HTC Radar?
Did this even for one second strike anyone as being kind of a waste of time since you don't have a single android/non windows phone handset in the bunch to compare w/ the AT&T windows phones? Seems like the most flawed experiment that i've ever heard of in my life...

The actual forum thread, linked above and where this all started from, took this position:

AT&T is limiting the Titan and only the Titan. The Focus S, some reported, were getting much faster speeds.

We decided to test to see if that was true and came up with negative results: the Titan and the Focus S performed exactly the same--poorly (for "4G").

Forgetting about Android for a moment, those are some terrible "4G" speeds--something that potential shoppers may be curious about. But AT&T has a history of limiting throughput on their "4G" phones and judging by our data speeds, it certainly looks to be the case.

The Radar was thrown in just for comparisn since T-Mo's HSPA+ network kills AT&Ts in terms of speed (or perhaps they just don't throttle their phone).

You should really read the thread for context.

VCI_Cell says:

This article was awesome right up to the point where I realized the testing chart was made up entirely of Windows Phones. I realize you guys have limited resources, but maybe postpone publishing the article until it, you know ... says something of worth. Right now I'm feeling pretty blue-balled by yellow journalism.
 

I think you're being a bit hyperbolic.

Forget about comparing it to Android for a moment. Getting 2.5Mbps is not "4G". Moreoever, the original claim was that the Titan was slower than the Focus S--something which we have shown to be false.

Getting back to Android, if you have read the thread, you will see the discussion of HSDPA category 8 versus 10. For the former, it was found on certain devices that AT&T had set it to 8 instead of 10, limiting througput on the phone.

The question is: Are Windows Phone set at HSDPA category 8 or 10? We don't know and can't tell, but our data speeds suggest it is 8.

Hope that is more clear.

aschettler says:

Not for nothing, but the bandwidth testing apps on the Windows Phones suck. In real-world experiences, my Focus S has awesome download speeds over 4G in Las Vegas, NV. I've downloaded full HD videos (approximately 30 MB) on YouTube over 4G in less than 30 seconds. The bandwidth testing apps have all taken up to a minute to test download speeds on a smaller file on the same phone in the same spot right after I tested with a YouTube download in the SuperTube app. I've tested this in multiple places with the same results. Something here doesn't seem right.

cormasco says:

I've noticed I never get over 4mbps on my titan anywhere I go. I consistantly get 2 to 3mbps. They seem to be using the same app I use "Bandwidth".

jman#WP says:

I used that bandwidth app also and got as high as 5.6 / 3.2 but on average 4.2 / 2.5 one thing i noticed is you need to select the 8 Mb file to download as its seems to get better results. I have Samsung focus s.

I can't say I see a difference in file size per se, at least not a significant difference, but I see what you are saying (basically a better, more consistent average).

But, now that it is 2:30am here in mid-town Manhattan, data speeds are higher as would be expected.

languedoctor says:

Wow. My subpar old 3g Trophy is 2.14/0.44 on Verizon (gulf coast FL).

way to go, AT&T.

This is not tempting me to trade up. Guess I'll wait for whichever next-gen handsets hit vzw, whenever they get around to it.

I just tested my HTC Titan and got 4.2Mbps download speeds from here:  
http://www.testmy.net/tools/test/d_load.php

kevm14 says:

This will not even load on my phone unless I am on WiFi.
http://www.testmy.net/tools/test/d_load.php
Interestingly, I had the same problem with another speed test site:
http://www.ispgeeks.com/wild/modules.php?name=Bandwidth_Meter_DSL
Finally, I don't know how much I even trust these sites.  I ran the TestMy over WiFi on my Titan and got 4Mbps down.  Ran it on my laptop and got 4Mbps down.  Then I ran Speedtest.net on my laptop over the same WiFi and got 12 down and nearly 9Mbps UP.

Jaja AT&T SUCKS!!!!! I get on average between 2.8 and 5.6m down and as high as 15m down on my T-mobile HD7

theefman says:

Well scratch that plan of switching to at&t because they have all the new WP7 devices, my DVP gets 3MB down and about the same up! What a rip, all this "4G" talk with such low speeds. Just hope T-Mobile survives after the takeover collapse.

The1nChicago says:

My 4G download speeds were not that impressive here in Chicago on my Titan.  I just got the phone and LOVE IT.  However, I am glad I was grandfathered to my old iPhone data plan. 

Using the same app on my HD7 on Bell Mobility in Canada, my 1st test resulted in 1.11 down and 1.51 up. Could you possibly look into more Canadian more data, specifically from the WP vs Android angle? I realize this will be limited by the lack of 2nd Gen devices in Canada. Perhaps you could partner with mobilesyrup.com

HD7guy says:

Zipping through Minneapolis/St. Paul this morning and easily hit 4.43 Mb down 1.24 Mb up on T-mobile on my HD7.

Also, if ATT is in fact throttling down WP devices, would this affect me if I imported a device I like the ATT-exclusive Focus S?

snowmutt says:

It doesn't surprise me, or should it surprise anyone who reads any mobile tech site, that T-Mobile speeds buries AT&T speeds.  That is a given.  Anyone who moved to AT&T for the "4G"  (cough, cough, gagging) speeds is going to be disappointed.  (I am actually not shocked by @languedoctors statement that his Trophy on Verizon gets about the same speeds on 3G.  I can believe that.) I stayed at AT&T after much going back and forth due to my desire to support WP.  I love the WP experience, my Wife and I needed to dump our old devices (my Palm Pre Plus was dying, her Blackberry Curve was driving her insane), so we grabbed the top two WP out in the US right now and are tons of happy. But pure and simple, HPSA+ is "3G+", and the ability to sell it as 4G on both companies is complete crap in my opinion.
 
Now this is just me talking out my butt, so please take it as such.  But the network T-Mobile is running (42 million or so costumers in mostly major markets) most likely enables them to use higher data speeds and maintain great device performance.  T-Mobile is not available where I live, so I missed out on the chance to jump on their bandwagon.  AT&T, never known for their customer satisfaction, is available in nearly every market and is pushing 100 milion customers including rural areas.  Are they going to make decisions in certain markets AND with certain devices to maintain positive control of their data speeds and network controls?  Yep.  They are.  Even though they are the premier WP carrier, is the sales of the Titan, Focus S, and the Focus Flash going to equal even one top Android or the iPhone right now?  Nope, most likely not.  So, guess which will be top of their list for throttling back?
 
Does that make my "S" less of a device?  Not a freaking chance.  I will take a slower "S" over any Android's speeds.  The Phone itself is so much smoother and has less lag, and will be so much better supported.  And who wants the status symbol-only crap the iPhone offers?  But I do envy those download speeds.  And I agree with every T-Mo customer on this forum:  If speed is your top concern, better to stick with your 1st Gen WP than come over to a 2nd Gen on AT&T.  But I just think that all three of of the new devices on AT&T are better phones.  (I am a tad biased on that one though!!)

jfa1 says:

I am still thinking maybe the s  or even the flash but I need to fo play with a titan. in my local store.  However I am thinking wait until the Nokia 900 and maybe just maybe it wil have ATT LTE.  If I go in and play with the Titan and something clicks one way or another  on any of them I may jump. 

cannon#WP says:

Just to answer the question posed, the LG Quantum (and the LG Panther) were both set to Category 8. You can find this info through the always useful MFG app.

I'm pretty sure someone will be able to find a way to switch that just as they did with Android soon enough.

wolf1891 says:

hrmmm...  these are "4G" speeds? huh...  think I'll stick with my 3G Dell Venue Pro for a while longer then...  (just ran the test: 3.25 download/1.10 upload)

wolf1891 says:

btw, I'm on t-mobile.

Major says:

I'd like to see their 4G results compared to wifi results. 

JimmyFal says:

I don't have a horse in this race except WP7. I just dumped T-Mobile because of lack of coverage and went and got a Titan. The Titan "says" 4g in the upper left corner. My friends IPhone 4s "Says" 3g in the upper corner of his phone.
My phone blows the Iphone away in side by side web surfing comparison. And I do notice that my Titan definately blows away anything I was doing on Tmobile with my HD7. I will download bandwidth (I didn't even know about it), and continue my testing. At the moment, I am glad I made the switch. I don't wait at all to go from site to site, and apps download really fast, so I'm not exactly missing the additional speed, but if I will take all I can get.
jf
 

Mr Plastik says:

Right now I'm using a Focus S and I've been getting pretty much the same results as the article's results. I rarely get above 2mb down.

Something interesting I wanted to bring up... About 7 months ago when I was still using my unlocked Dell Venue Pro, I did a speed test comparison with my wife's iPhone 3GS. The 3GS was getting pretty much the same results as the current 4G Windows Phones and my Dell Venue Pro was getting 3 - 4mb down on average (since it was unlocked, it had the "H" icon for HSDPA).

AT&T false advertisement when it comes to 4G :'(

I'm not a T-Mobile customer, so I can't comment on their data speeds, but as for AT&T, it seems that their 4G is still faster than their 3G...that being said, I ran the bandwidth test under 4G & Wi-Fi and here are my results:

4G: 0.69 down; 0.57 up
Wi-Fi: 9.25 down; 3.78 up

These are the results for the 8MB download, done on my TITAN, and residing in Philly, PA. Also be advised that I am connected to my Wi-Fi via an N-Router, people should also take their router connectivity into consideration for their Wi-Fi speeds...which means that (obviously) the 3G/4G test is the "true test".

IM4CHRST says:

I would have to agree about the Bandwidth app not being a good benchmark for testing download speeds. I just did it on my old school Samsung Focus (O.G.) and got the following results for the 8MB file:
Test 1: 3.75/.25
Test 2: 1.11/.12
Test 3: 10.9/.25
 
With the Free Speed Test app, it went as follows:
Test 1: .88/.27
Test 2: .59/.3
Test 3: .38/.32
 
I don't know what to make of this all except I will now definately wait to get a new phone for when my contract needs to be re-up'd in two years. I was T-Mo but moved to where they don't have coverage and trying to stay true to WP, AT&T was the best bet for a good phone. However they are horrible when it comes to pleasing their customers. Also, funny thing, I have yet to experience a dropped call when talking with someone, yet very consistantly my call drops when I am on with AT&T customer service. Sometimes in the middle of the call and the rep doesn't seem to have a clue how to address my problem or right when the rep answers after I've been waiting for 15minutes. Anyone else have that problem?

willdoors says:

ATT is so obvious limiting internet to our windows phones.... I own a 3G samsung focus  and when I compare my internet speed with my friends iphones, their iphones' internet speed are faster than mine ALWAYS

Babssmith01 says:

I don't see it. I'm in Austin and have AT&T's 4G LTE service. It works fine. I'm a graphics designer and have friends with all kinds of different phones who are also graphics designers. We don't see much of a difference in speeds with our different phones/networks. Not, anyway, worth complaining about.

jfa1 says:

are your friends also on ATT?