HSPA+ vs LTE: Which one is better?

May 6, 2012

We have all marveled at the revolution in mobile communications technology. The 1980’s saw the introduction of the “brick” style wireless mobile phone accessible to a privileged few. Since then, we have seen a lot of shifting trends in designs and capabilities, but an exponential increase in availability and popularity. We now live in a world boasting over 6 billion mobile phone users, with most high-end devices mimicking the capabilities of a computer, featuring dual-core or even quad-core processing capability.

Ah, the Zach Morris brick.

I still recall a time when the primary purpose of a mobile phone was voice communication. Now, with smartphones bursting onto the scene in ever growing numbers, the mobile landscape is changing rapidly. With devices now featuring messaging, social networking connectivity, email and browsing capabilities, and the ability to stream or download high-quality music and videos, making and receiving calls has almost become a secondary feature.

Of course, none of this would be possible without an equally impressive evolution in mobile networking technology. From first generation communication networks to the current 4G craze, these advances have made it incredibly easy for any user to always be connected. Today we will compare the latest networking technologies, namely HSPA+ and LTE, and take a look at what the future holds.

History 

Courtesy of Ofcom

First generation mobile networks were basic analog systems designed purely for voice calls. Mobile devices and call rates were very expensive and therefore not available to everybody. The early nineties saw the introduction of the first digital cellular networks. 2G brought with it improved sound quality and a higher capacity, allowing for data services, albeit at very low speeds up to 14.4 kbps. Further advances in this technology introduced GPRS and EDGE features with quicker data speeds between 40kpbs to 100kbps.

This was followed by the 3G revolution. Apart from wide-area voice telephony, it introduced high-speed internet access, far improved audio and video streaming capabilities, support for video calls and conferences, and internet TV. With effective speeds ranging from 128kbps to 384kbps, the advent of 3G completely changed the way people use their mobile phones.

The effective entry of the tablet and increasing dependency on handheld mobile devices led to demand for even faster speeds and connectivity options, leading to a new standard, HSPA+, followed by 4G LTE.

What is HSPA+ and LTE?

HSPA+

HSPA+ or Evolved High Speed Packet Access, is a souped-up version of HSUPA and HSDPA 3G standards with speeds comparable to the newer LTE networks. Theoretical speeds are said to feature download speeds up to 168Mbps and uplink of 22Mbps. These are of course theoretical speeds, with the actual speed available to users being much lower. While most HSPA+ networks around the world boast a theoretical 21Mbps(download) speed, T-Mobile(USA) and Deutsche Telekom(Germany) feature 42Mbps networks. A hotly debated issue is the 4G tag offered by cellular network companies to advertise their HSPA+ networks(T-mobile and AT&T), while most accept that it should be considered, at most, a 3.75G network.

LTE

On the other hand, LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is considered a “true” 4G network. Theoretical speeds boast downlink speeds of 300Mbps and uploads of 75Mbps. LTE, which is an IP-based system, is a complete redesign and simplication of 3G network architecture resulting in a marked reduction in transfer latency. Because of this, LTE is not compatible with 2G and 3G networks and thus, functions on an entirely different wireless spectrum. Unfortunately, this means that erecting an LTE network requires it to be built from the ground up. This is one of the main factors behind the delayed launch of ¬†complete 4G LTE networks.

Bottom Line

HSPA+ is the tip of the mountain with 3G technology, and LTE is simply the foundation for a new mountain. LTE, also known as 4G, is the most advanced telecommunications technology currently available, and is one that defines a clear path toward future developments, making it the most attractive choice for carriers these days.

Speed Comparison

Neil Shah

The biggest question consumers have is whether the additional cost of buying an LTE-enabled device and the higher data charges are worth it, compared to the “slower” but relatively cheaper 3G and HSPA+ networks. Let’s take a look.

Under consideration are speed comparisons based on the recently conducted wireless speed tests by PCWorld, of the major network carriers in the US (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint). For our purposes, we are going to compare the LTE-based AT&T and Verizon 4G networks, against the 42 Mbps HSPA+ based T-Mobile “4G” network. While Sprint and T-Mobile both aim towards launching their LTE networks soon, as of now, they are based on Wi-Max technology and HSPA+ respectively.

PCWorld, along with their testing partners Novarum, conducted the tests using Ookla’s speed test app in 13 cities across the US including San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Washington D.C., and Boston.

There are a few key points to note from the chart above:

  • T-Mobile’s HSPA+42 network performs admirably against, what is supposed to be, far superior LTE networks. The high speeds offered by this network should be more than enough for most users.
  • LTE is fast! While HSPA+ is definitely good enough, the LTE networks(in their current state) are 20-30% faster. A big plus for all the speed demons out there.
  • Unrelated to the topic, but is anyone as surprised as I am at how poorly Sprint’s Wi-Max network performed?

Granted these results for HSPA+ aren’t standard the world over, with most networks featuring 21Mbps download capabilities. But all these network carriers are planning to upgrade to 42Mbps and even 84 Mbps networks, so HSPA+ still has a lot of potential, and is certainly “good enough” for now.

Coverage

Courtesy of GSA

As you can see from the map above, 4G LTE is certainly the network of the future. With the much faster speeds, higher efficiency, and increased reliability, it is the next logical step in network technology development. There are some key points to note about the map though, which shows that LTE coverage isn’t as “colorful” as it seems:

  • While a lot of countries are marked “red” indicating countries with commercial LTE services, it is slightly misleading. For example, while India as a whole is marked, only one carrier(Airtel) offers 4G LTE services in only one city(Kolkata) thus far. Of course, plans are in the works to rollout the network eventually, it will take quite a lot of time before complete coverage is achieved.
  • The above point is true for most countries, with none boasting a full coverage LTE network. Full coverage in some regions will be achieved at the earliest by late-2013 to early-2014, with most others much later.

On the other hand, HSPA+ is more along the lines of a software enhancement that elevates 3G data network performance. Of course, the process isn’t as simple as it sounds, but it is definitely easier than building a completely new LTE supported network. As such, any carrier that has an established 3G network, have upgraded to an HSPA+ network. With over 100 network carriers worldwide featuring HSPA+ networks with most boasting over 80% coverage. To keep up with current LTE speeds, carrier networks are also upgrading the their “slower” 21Mbps networks to 42Mbps or even 84Mbps (theoretical) download speeds.

Cost 

As mentioned earlier, the biggest issue with taking advantage of the faster speeds of a 4G LTE network is coverage. Availability is still quite limited but that will of course, get better. What surprised me is the lack of a difference in cost between a carrier’s HSPA+ and LTE networks.

  • AT&T and Verizon have standard data rates of $50 for 5GB regardless of whether you have access to 3G, HSPA+, or 4G LTE networks.
  • ¬†T-Mobile, which currently features a 42Mbps HSPA+ networks, also features the same data rates.
  • In India, while available only in Kolkata so far, 4G LTE costs Rs 1399(~$28) for 9GB, with HSPA+ being Rs 1250(~$25) for 10GB.

Of course, I’ve only used the information from two places I’m most familiar with, so there might be other networks worldwide where there is a more evident price difference (or not), so if there are, do let us know in the comments section.

Device availability

HSPA+ and LTE variations of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Device availability is another area where I consider LTE to be at a disadvantage. Here’s why:

  • Most smartphones and tablets (3G versions) released in the last 2 years or so can access the faster speeds offered by HSPA+ networks.
  • On the other hand, accessing a LTE network requires a significant hardware change, i.e. the need for an LTE radio.
  • Options for LTE capable devices are comparatively limited and generally range towards the higher end of the price spectrum.
  • There has been an incompatibility issue with latest Nvidia quad-core Tegra 3 processor and LTE radios, as seen with the HTC One X where the international version features the quad-core processor, and the US releases with LTE radios “falling back” on Qualcomm dual-core Snapdragon S4 processors. Whether this issue will be prevalent in other quad-core processors such as the Samsung Exynos 4412, is yet to be seen.
  • LTE radios are also infamous for being a huge drain on battery life.

The Future

HSPA+

Evolution of HSPA

HSPA+, with its theoretical 168Mbps downlink speeds, still wasn’t the pinnacle of HSPA technology. Back in 2010 began talk of LTHE or Long Term HSPA Evolution. LTHE brought with a lot of advantages including:

  • Backward compatibility with existing WCDMA and HSPA networks. This provided the possibility of an easy transition to LTHE as opposed to a network upgrade to LTE.
  • Theoretical download speeds up to a whopping 672 Mbps.
  • Carriers and hardware companies claimed that LTHE could have been ready for deployment by 2013.

Unfortunately, almost every network around the world has decided to move onto LTE as their network for the future. HSPA+ networks will likely be upgraded to the 42Mbps or even 84Mbps download capability, but now, it seems like that is as far as this evolutionary technology will be pushed.

LTE

Courtesy of Teliasonera

While HSPA+ was the peak of 3G technology, the current variation of 4G LTE is only the first step in this next stage, opening up numerous possibilities for much further advancement in this field. It is somewhat strange that advances in LTE technology are already being spoken about when the “original” standard networks aren’t even close to being fully established. Yet, that is the rapid speed in which the tech world progresses. Let’s take a look at some of these developments:

  • ¬†TD-LTE: ¬†TD-LTE or Time-Division LTE was developed by China Mobile over the last few years. Unlike LTE networks which carries two separate signals for data traveling in either direction, TD-LTE features a single channel and allocated upload and download bandwidth depending on your usage. This accounts for higher data speeds. TD-LTE is also compatible 4G WiMax and it will easier to upgrade from WiMax to TD-LTE than to LTE.
  • LTE Advanced: LTE Advanced is a further evolution of current LTE networks which brings with it theoretical peaks of 1GBps download speeds, increased spectrum efficiency(upto 3 times more bandwidth), and reduced latency. Like the upgrade from HSPA to HSPA+, a move from LTE to LTE-Advanced is also a software deployment upgrade.
  • TD-LTE will also see a shift to TD-LTE advanced in the future.

Conclusion

Advantages of LTE over HSPA+

  • The most obvious advantage is the higher data speeds
  • Much better spectrum efficiency
  • Far lower latency
  • LTE has a simpler architecture compared to an HSPA+ network

Advantages of HSPA+ over LTE

  • HSPA+ is an already established network, whereas complete LTE coverage still has a while to go
  • HSPA to HSPA+ evolution required much less investment in infrastructure and was less costly to upgrade as opposed to LTE which needs a completely new network built from the ground up.
  • LTE requires specific LTE radio featured devices, whereas HSPA+ is available to any user with a 3G enabled phone.

As you can see, LTE is definitely the way of the future, and the potential with this technology is incredible. But I still think there are a lot of factors that lead me to conclude that HSPA+ networks are certainly more than enough for now.

What are your thoughts? Is HSPA+ good enough for now? Is LTE not here fast enough? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to know what you think!

Comments

  • DavebG

    I just use wifi

  • joppei

    I want LTE, but since the coverage of LTE networks in Europe are only really usable in the larger cities and those cities usually got a available wifi nearby, I don’t really see the point yet. I’m interested in a overall good coverage when i’m at the train / on my way to the cabin / out in a boat / in a park / at the beach. Those places really got crappy LTE coverage, thus I would choose HSPA+ for my next smart phone, maybe in two – three years time it would be more important with LTE capabilities on my phone!

  • Ann

    since i am a person using her phone 3-4 years, my next smartphone that i will buy soon is going to e LTE-enabled because i’m sure that LTE is the future and if not: all LTE-phones are HSPA+-enabled too. (sorry for bad english ;) greets from germany.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002731698170 Max Paxn

      no you are wrong LTE and HSPA+ are two different tech’s they dont mix and no carrier would take a phone that ties up two lines
      HSPA+ will do you another 3-4 years while Waiting for LTE will also take that long
      get an HSPA+ phone and wait for lte to arrive unless you somehow find a phone that magically works on both networks(Good luck dont think they exist)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000197350469 Gelacio Villalobos

        I think you haven’t seen some of AT&T’s phones that have both HSPA+ and LTE in them.

        • http://twitter.com/Tmakedon Tom Makedon

          My att HTC ONE X is amazing on AT&T and gets the same battery life as my just sold IPHONE 4S. I have been using it two weeks I would never go back. It also falls back on HSPA plus, so I get the best of both worlds. Check it out yourself and do your research. Technology is there, and the dual core is smoking fast, I laugh at the people that talk about quad core and how its a must have. None of the mobile OS are taking advantage of quad cores and probably never truly will, heck desk top computers rarely take advantage of quad core. I run final cut pro x on a dual core laptop and quad core iMac and the speeds are negligible. Again do your research the ATT HTC ONE X is actually better than the international version. It runs both LTE and HSPA plus is quad band GSM world phone. TRI BAND 3G so pretty much most of Europe is covered since it has the 2100 band. Seems the international phones are more limited at this point when you go high end. Im also going to bet the next iPhone will be dual core with LTE and fallback HSPA plus again best of both worlds. So do your research. So for those of you desiring a quad core phone its laughable, oh I forgot you must run auto cad on it or possibly edit film on it! : )

          • uberzuper

            Actually , the Samsung galaxy s3 has quad core, but only in Asia… go figure

          • Max Montoya

            it also has quad-core in europe, go figure

          • Justin

            My 2.3 GHz quad core Nexus 5 is a hell of a lot faster than other phones with dual core processors. It’s not a must have: it’s just faster and more convenient.

        • Dylan Aarhus

          So does tmobiles galaxy s5 I’m using it right now T-Mobile delivers hspa+ hspa and 4g/lte

      • Gandalf

        Yes, they are different, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t phones and tablets that support both… look at the 3rd gen iPad… it has 700MHz/2100MHz LTE and 850/900/1800/1900/2100 GSM/GPRS/EDGE/HSPA+ support (and the Verizon version of the iPad has 700MHz LTE, 850/1900 CDMA, and 850/900/1800/1900/2100 GSM/GPRS/EDGE/HSPA+ support, so it’s using 3 different technologies)

      • Astronaut_AU

        They actually exist, Samsung Galaxy Note II is LTE & HSPA+, while Samsung Galaxy S III is HSPA+ but LTE Compatible.

        • beniem

          thanks , that was what I wanted to know, I were in doubt buying note 2 or s3 !

      • oister85

        Yes I have a phone that works with both hspa+ lte is call Samsung s3

      • Justin

        My phone has Edge, 2G, 3G, 4G (HSPA+), and LTE. So I’m not quite sure what you mean.

      • Yeasbir

        Lol… Every LTE phone support HSPA+. Basically HSPA+ is 3.9G. LTE is 4G. LTE Advance is 4G+. Ok? No confusion. Samsung i9505 (s4 lte) is dual version. 3g+4g supported.
        I am an telecom engineer, working the project of hspa+ network at vemplecom (wind, banglalink, orange, djuice, telenor etc.)

  • WestIndiesKING

    I think you are 100% correct. I dont want a LTE phone right now because the battery life due to the tech is horrible. Its one reason why im happy T-Mo didnt rush it because the tech is still behind, all of the LTE phones that came out on verizon had horrible battery life and a slew of issues. Prefect the tech then i will be on board. Till then im happy with my 3.75 G on T-Mo.

    • Guest

      Even razor thin phones like the Razr MAXX gets huge amounts of battery life with an LTE phone: It’s designed correctly.

    • Joy

      Amen!!

  • Scott Emer

    They shouldn’t make theoretical download/upload speeds if its impossible to get them. All these numbers should be real world so its more accurate. Don’t say your HSPA+ is 42mbs when it only gets 5mbs connection in real world. Discuss the TRUE SPEEDs not the “Made up” numbers. LTE is by far the real 4G standard and if you don’t move to that technology you will fall behind in today’s world. If LTE Advanced is just a simple software upgrade the first company to complete the full LTE roll out can then start to roll out LTE Advanced while others lag behind learning how to actually build an outdated network.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002731698170 Max Paxn

      HSPA+ has the higher theoritical and actual no-load but LTE has the higher realworld, where,you know, multiple people actually use data from ONE tower and not a new tower for each one of them

    • jaden

      5 Mbps? hahahaha more like 25-30 where i live…

  • Guest

    There’s a reason why even AT&T (after spending billions of dollars on HSPA+) is instead installing LTE now.

    • joppei

      Well, its quite obvious that LTE is the future standard on mobile networks. That said, most people wont even have the ability to use LTE in a couple of years, unless their sitting under a mobile antenna in a larger city! Thus i really don’t see the point about hyping up LTE before you actually can use it to something.

  • AndroidBrian

    HSPA+ is good for now. Once phone manufacturers actually start making phones w/ LTE in mind then LTE will be a must have. All the people who disagree with that will change there tune once sg3 quad core comes to T-Mobile and the rest are stuck w/ the dual core.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002731698170 Max Paxn

      u mean they exynos comparable to the s4?
      qualcom is in the making of a Quad core s4 that will out gun even laptop processors (Low to low-mid range)
      plus tmo caps 4g use at 2 gigs then u gotta use their EDGE network
      versus sprint with no caps and throttling on WiMax and Soon to come LTE network
      as long as spring gets the eclipse by lg im a happy camper willing to shell up 650 for that new phone on their LTE

      • Jd12aggett

        Tmo now offers unlimited up to 5 gigs for 30 bucks a month with no contract. I find that satisfactory

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Molan-James/100003953814831 Molan James

      AT&T runs its 4G LTE and HSPA+ networks in parallel, defaulting to LTE where its available. According to the carrier, users can expect 4G LTE speeds to be around 10 times faster than 3G and 3 times faster than its HSPA+ network.Read in detail Which GSM Galaxy S III is faster? T-Mobile HSPA+ vs. AT&T LTE Data Speed Video

  • http://twitter.com/hipreetam93 Preetam Nath

    Now 4G LTE launched by Airtel at Bengaluru, 2nd after Kolkata

    http://tech2.in.com/news/mobile-services/airtel-4g-launches-in-bengaluru-today/304362

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AWWIKW6MNPUHOC4OVSHWUDWAHM Fabio

    In my opinion, I think 4G LTE is in it’s infancy right now. I have no desire for it right now. I don’t need to be on my phone browsing the internet 24/7. And when I do use the internet on my phone, I’m usually on wifi which is fine, and if I’m not on wifi, I think 3G speeds are quite satisfying.

  • Caio

    We in Brazil are very lucky. We pay $50 (yes, USD) for 500MB over HSPA+.

    • Kamina

      sarcasm?

    • phathands

      I’m so sorry

  • Kamina

    Fall back on the S4? The S4 smokes the tegra 3!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002731698170 Max Paxn

      specially the Quad-core about to come out

  • Jeremyveltre13

    LTE is the way to go. The more people who hop on the band wagon the larger the necessity it will be for the networks to expand. Go test the speed on any hspa+ from att or tmobile against the razr maxx on verizons LTE. it would be impossible to go back to anything less at this point. Plus my razr maxx gets better life than my iphone did and the galaxy nexus is another joke on us by samsung.

    • Superman31

      Are you crazy, the Galaxy Nexus is an amazing phone. I’ve been using it since it came out not only in the states, but I’ve used it in Germany, Dom Repub, Nigeria, Kuwait, and thailand.

  • Megamanstriker95

    AT&T is running very misleading ads about their “4G” netwotk covers more than 2000 cities than Verizon. What is really confusing. to most of their customers is that they do not explain the difference between HSPA+ and LTE. Being that HSPA+ is not real 4G, both AT&T and T-Mobile are not telling the whole truth about their “Faux G” networksT that are really 3.75G. T-Mobile claims they are faster than AT&T and Verizon by comparing their “Faux G” network to their competitions 3G network. Talk about misleadin! I’d like to see them campare their “Faux G” network to LTE and see how much smack they talk. Verizon is the only one being truthfull when they state that they have the largest 4G LTE network with coverage six times than of AT&T

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002731698170 Max Paxn

      you should file a class action lawsuit then for mis leading advertiesements. use IEEE standards for 4G and Most accepted definition for 4g Tech and hradware.
      you might have a good case and get a boatload of money too

    • Xandersun

      Are you kidding me? Verizon is the one that should be condemned. They bandy about the term “4G” and then don’t provide anywhere NEAR the theoretical speed they tout. To give you an analogy, T-mobile builds a highway from DC to New York, and then gives you keys to a Volkswagon Golf. Verizon builds a highway, too, from DC to New York and gives you keys to a Porsche. Then some amorphous committee states that only transportation systems that can get you from DC to New York at 150 mph can be called “4G” (who gave this committee this power anyway?). The Golf, driving on T-Mobile’s relatively empty highway, maxes out at 110 mph, but T-Mobile still decides to call it 4G, because who the heck cares what some unelected committee decides what you can and can’t call 4G? Verizon, on the other hand, neglects to tell you that its highway is crammed with cars, so that the Porsche can never really average more than 115 mph. It’s not giving you 4G either! But it screams and b-tches about how T-Mobile is falsely advertising? Give me a break!

    • http://www.nosocialism.com/ NoSocialism.com

      I see these ads with Verizon saying they have MUCH better “LTE” coverage than anyone else, yet my next door neighbor here in Delray Beach can BARELY get 3G, unless he goes downtown. Sure if you’re at the center of the city, you get GREAT LTE coverage, but what happens when you’re everywhere else? Same thing with my Sister in Law who lives in the burbs between Long Island and Queens, she had to switch to AT&T, since Verizon coverage there barely existed.

    • Astronaut_AU

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia5iBxqsjW8

      4G Speed Test (LTE vs HSPA+ or AT&T vs T Mobile) on Samsung Galaxy S3

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506211093 Gideon Alvin White

    I gotta call BS on those sprint download speeds on 4g! The upload speed is about right (they have it capped at 1 meg) but I’ve gotten as fast as 12 MB download with an average of 10

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002731698170 Max Paxn

      itll depend on ur place
      also the amount of ppl on a single tower
      your tower might have had minimal load while theirs a modest load

  • http://profiles.google.com/digitalgrind Greg Keane

    HSPA+ is about to peak 2016-2020 we’ll all be at its funeral. If we are saying that it’s nearing it’s speed limit while LTE is just starting why would a carrier stick with a dieing tech.

    Is it good enough for now, yeh HSPA+ may be good enough for now but with the mobile markets on fire like a college boys crotch the morning after a $2 dollar hooker we need to look ahead and see whats coming down the pipe. Companies are talking about offer High Def films, 3D films, and more rich content that require speeds that will definitely be a plus in the delivery of these types of content. Files are getting bigger and will require more time to transfer so I say ramp up to be ready for a richer online experience. I say LTE is necessity and the right way to go, why stay with a dieing tech lets get LTE in place and ready for what is sure to come.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002731698170 Max Paxn

      LTE isnt the way to go LTE advanced is the way to go

      • Sentinel

        Sure, LTE (or LTE Advanced) is the way to go–if you’re a phone company… But, if you’re a U.S. consumer, and plan to upgrade your phone every year, like everyone else, this year’s phone should be an HSPA+ on T-mobile if you want to have the best speed as you travel all across the country (like I do)… Of course, if you only operate in one or two (or the handful of) cities, that already have well developed LTE networks, and not too many LTE subscribers, then you should go with Verizon.

        There’s no point in being loyal to a phone company… they’re not loyal to you. I have moved my phone number to four different companies in the last four years… which was every time I upgraded my device. And every time I made the switch, it was based on MY needs. Not industry or carrier hype, all of which is really just designed to mobilize customers for THEIR needs.

        Once the LTE infrastructure gets where in ought to be in the U.S. (and it’s nowhere near there yet), I will switch carriers (and instruments) again to get what I need.

        • mrmohr

          I am with you. Phone companies are not loyal to their customers. In fact I think they treat their customers worse than any other industry that I know of. Even the auto industry is learning to be better to their customers.
          I’ll switch when the price is right for me.

          • Town

            I think you are forgetting about the cable/internet industry. With the monopolies they have they really don’t care what their customers think of them

        • Joseph M.

          I’m kind of with you, but let me tell you as a subscriber of both T-Mobile and Verizon, T-Mobile is really decent in cities, but once you hit the open road, it’s all over for them.

          Verizon has usable 3G data throughout their rural coverage areas, while T-Mobile has next to nothing. With T-Mobile,
          I get EDGE if I’m lucky–but it’s more likely to be roaming on AT&T or a regional provider, with voice/text only or virtually useless GPRS.

          Furthermore, Verizon’s LTE network is now actually larger than T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network. Verizon is on track to have their LTE rollout complete over their entire 1x/3G-EVDO network by the end of next year.
          If you travel all across the country via airline, then T-Mobile is great, especially considering the cost. If you’re more apt to travel all across the country by land (like me), it’s not even close; Verizon is the much better choice.

          I’m not ragging on your choice–just trying to keep the record straight.

          • Superman31

            Good points Joseph.

        • Superman31

          And not only traveling across the US, I (unlike too many amercans) have a passport and travel worldwide. Most other nations aren’t on LTE and if they are, it’s very limited coverage by maybe one of the many local carriers.

  • Tom

    Anyone who had the opportunity to experience LTE, will not hear anything anyone has to say about anything else…HSPA+ maybe enough for most users however it’s only a matter of time (few months perhaps) that people will want faster and cleaner network…LTE clearly will satisfy the never-ending hunger for speed…

  • ihatemakingnewuserids

    I hate how they call HSPA+ “4G”. It’s simply a lie.

    • Xandersun

      It’s only a lie or bothersome if you buy into what some unelected, amorphous committee decrees is 4G. Just like the Pope says only heterosexual practicing, Catholic church going, communion taking, Jesus believinig people are “Good Christians”. It’s far worse in my opinion, for hypocritical companies like Verizon who constantly tout “theoretical” speeds attainable by their technologies, but give you far less, who try to play the “holier (4g-er)-than thou” card. Extremely misleading.

  • http://www.nosocialism.com/ NoSocialism.com

    My TMobile Tablet gets FANTASTIC 4G speeds while driving from the Keys to St. Lucie in South Florida. I used to have AT&T and my Remote Support Sessions would either slow to the point of being unusable or drop out completely. I don’t know if the coverage is this good in the rest of the US, but what I’ve found from others using other networks in my position, they’re not as reliable when you’re on the move.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Temporallobe David McGuire

    Thank you for this. I am looking at gettin the Samsung galaxy note II and was looking at preordering a version that did not have LTE. I think I will wait until the north American launch. Well written article and helped me understand the difference. One question, how does the phone switch from say EDGE to 3G to LTE?

  • http://www.facebook.com/turner.junior.5 Turner Junior

    It really depends if the area one lives in has good LTE coverage or not. I live in the Montreal metropolitan area which has extensive LTE coverage so I chose to go with the Samsung Galaxy S3

  • srewobwj

    I thought this was an excellent article. Very informative. Thanks.

  • http://www.ryanstake.net RyansTake

    I’m very glad I read this… I had been bummed that the Nexus 4 wasn’t going to include LTE, but now it looks like it makes more sense.

    • Joy

      I totally agree. I was thinking the same thing about the Nexus 4. It looks like such a great phone with some of the same features of the Samsung Galaxy SIII and iPhone. After reading this article I think I’m going to get it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HTL3TKBNEICYZKCU7SZQN6IRWQ v

    For consumers, HSPA is overkill. I have Tmobile service and average 6 MBPS d/load and over 1.2 Mbps upload daytime. At night, it often exceeds my cable modem speeds. Even at 6 mbps, I can watch 1080p HD video on a bug screen TV ! WTF do you need higher speeds for ?

    I use the HSPA data n/w for all my app downloads/updates. It is that fast.

    i am not saying faster speeds are not needed but for cell phone customers, as of today, I see no reason. All this is marketing b$ and nothing more. And it was started by verizon, the thieving network.

    • Pangga

      You can also tether your phone with 6mbps which means you can take advantage of the speed using your laptop or pc. Piggyback. So it’s not overkill after all…

    • Justin

      Yeah. I get what you mean. On LTE near me I get 40 down, while on 4G (HSPA+) I get 10-20 down. LTE takes less than a second to load a webpage, while 4G takes about 1-2 seconds. Not a big deal. As long as the internet loads with three seconds and works it’s not an issue to me. However, on my internet (50 down) I notice a decent difference from just 4G, but not so much from LTE.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HTL3TKBNEICYZKCU7SZQN6IRWQ v

    IP based networks have a lot of overhead- that is why it wasn’t used in the original cell networks. Bandwidth is not the only consideration for this type of network. As other users pointed out, battery life is a more important consideration that has been overlooked. I hope HSPA remains here for a long time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kramerica5000 Eric Kramer

    I think the cost of Verizon creating a new LTE network is passed on to the customer. With Verizon’s new “Share Everything” plan it’s difficult to get a plan that doesn’t cost more than $100/month. With T-Mobile you can get a monthly 4g (hspa+) plan for as cheap as $30. No contract and a savings of $70/month makes T-Mobile’s hspa+ a no-brainer for me. I’ll be switching to T-mobile from Verizon as soon as the Nexus 4 comes out.

    • http://avatarsankh.blogspot.com/ Xyzzy

      Speaking as another person switching networks: you might also check into Ting, which is a semi-new Sprint MVNO — they let customers choose usage tiers for their minutes/texts/data separately and only charge $6 per phone on an account. (I’m debating it…depends on how much I’d have to pay for a LTE phone, as WiMax is so slow.)

      • Justin

        Ughhhdhbdjs. I used to have Sprint and I’m so thankful to no longer have it. Their 3G near me had Edge like speeds and their service was terrible. T-Mobile by me has 4G and LTE, and it’s much faster.

  • Havoc

    The original Droid Razer with 4GLTE gets amazing speeds and has enough battery life for me as long as I’m not watching netflix or sitting there with the screen on all day. It’s not as though LTE is an incomplete tech. I say there is NO reason there shouldn’t be a Nexus 4 version with an LTE radio instead of a 3.75… for those of us who can use it. As far as I’m concerned, not including LTE is a show of weakness and desire to cater to the underdeveloped networks…

  • http://www.facebook.com/andre.a.sr.79 Andre A Hamilton Sr

    On T Mobiles network their ability to stream video over HSPA+ is more than adequate. At what point will the speed differences be imperceptible.

    • Superman31

      Exactly! What is the point of having ridiculos download speed if its not even noticeable in usage?

      • http://dandascalescu.com/ Dan Dascalescu

        Try maintaining an SSH connection over T-Mobile’s 3G… it will drop all the time, killing your terminal session. I haven’t tried LTE yet, but if it’s supposed to be more reliable, then I’ll go for it.

  • Nithin

    This is very informative. Thanks a lot for writing this..

  • GoogleDroid87

    I’m happy with my Nexus 4 on T-Mobiles HSPA+ network, blazing fast

  • lluper

    AT&T makes claims their handsets with HSPA+ with LTE is much faster with GSM…everyone makes claims…unles you are a wired daytrader, how fast is fast enough…there are ways to twist and “word” ads and claims where almost any carrier can claim faster and wider coverage.

  • Mario Andhika

    LTE is the future. HSPA+ has good enough bandwidth, but it sucks for gaming because of the high latency.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alvaromiguelroquemartins √Ālvaro Martins

    very nice, thanks for this article!

  • Hip Hop

    There is an error in the last graphical image used in this article. In the graph, the speed listed under (3G HSPA – Market Impact 2006 -Typical User Rate Uplink) is listed as 64 – 884 Mbps, when it should be Kbps. Also, the data used is outdated, carrier biased, and doesn’t provided a completely accurate status, history or forecast for the technology or carriers.

  • http://twitter.com/darkpath0010 Lane Lombardia

    My largest issue with LTE is the lack of an all band handset.

    • http://dandascalescu.com/ Dan Dascalescu

      The Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 seems to be all-band handsets.

  • piffdaddy

    My dl speeds on late on speed test is 30 MBS late and 4 MBS on hspa+ on gs3. No contest as to what is Wayyyy faster.

  • Serg

    The nexus 4 supports lte on tmobiles network!

  • JIN

    does HSPA+ support or work with DC HSPDA ??? Can some one please answer this for me please ? Thanks

    • Jaden Keuten

      sorry for the late reply, but DC-HSPA is Dual Carrier HSPA+, they’re the same thing, just the 42 Mbps standard

  • David Haggard

    I’m on AT&T for one reason. My phone uses a SIM card and it’s LTE. It doesn’t matter at all to me what that means for data speed. What it really means to me is, for my travel outside of the USA, I have it unlocked it to use SIM cards from local carriers where I travel, And it works. As far as I know, that’s not possible with HSPA phones, period.
    It’s high time US phone carriers wake up to the fact that there is a big world out there, and they have customers who travel in it. And the smart ones of us are not willing to pay $4 or more a minute for “roaming.”

  • David Haggard

    I’m on AT&T for one reason. My phone uses a SIM card and it’s LTE. It doesn’t matter at all to me what that means for data speed. What it really means to me is, for my travel outside of the USA, I have it unlocked it to use SIM cards from local carriers where I travel, And it works. As far as I know, that’s not possible with HSPA phones, period.
    It’s high time US phone carriers wake up to the fact that there is a big world out there, and they have customers who travel in it. And the smart ones of us are not willing to pay $4 or more a minute for “roaming.”

  • QS

    “As you can see, LTE is definitely the way of the future, and the potential with this technology is incredible. But I still think there are a lot of factors that lead me to conclude that HSPA+ networks are certainly more than enough for now.”

    What a moronic concluding paragraph. This screams, “I was tired of writing the article and just threw some bullshit onto the end.”

  • MoChange

    Here in Israel the ongoing fight over band and frequency allocation for the roll-out of LTE networks carries on between the ministry’s of communications, defense, environmental protection etc and the carriers who are itching to deploy LTE… in the meantime on Orange’s 3.9G??? HSPA+ network I hit speeds often in the 15-20+ Mbps range down (Max I saw was just over 22) and generally around 2+Mbps up stream so I am not going to complain… maybe we will get LTE in a few years when enough bribes or kickbacks are paid…lol

  • ALEX

    I BOUGHT A GALAXY MEGA I9205 INTERNATIONAL UNLOCK BUT ONLY SHOWS H+ AND I WAS A LITTLE UPSET AND ALMOST RETURN THE PHONE , BUT
    WHAT I NOTICE IS H+ IS A LITTLE MORE FASTER THAN 4G LTE I HAVE S4 LTE N THE MEGAS WON ON SPEED , SO I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE PHONE I LIKE IT BUT THE FREAKING H+ BOTHERS ME , SO WHAT YOU GUYS THINK ABOUT IT ?

    • http://dandascalescu.com/ Dan Dascalescu

      STOP SHOUTING

  • Sanchit

    Am happy…i read this article..it’s such a great article full of knowledge
    thumbs-up to the writer

  • Robert Pratt

    I had a xperia ion on att. The LTE radio KILLS the battery. Im lucky if im getting 8 hours with like 1.5 hours of screen time. I moved to a galaxy note 2 unlocked on att and the speeds are very noticebly slower but I get great! battery life with it with heavy usage. Like the article said hspa+ speed are “good enough”

    • http://dandascalescu.com/ Dan Dascalescu

      Can you disable LTE usage? Maybe with a Cyanogen ROM?

      • jaden

        yes, on cm i disabled lte.

  • Sid

    The Bandwidth efficiency and reduced latency are the keys.. the cost will be reduced deeply in the next few years.. I guess LTE will be developed in a way that it will be more and more efficient than other technologies.. that is, the Long Term Evolution

  • 213

    STC (Saudi Telecommunication Company) has 4g Sims that give unlimited access to 4G (LTE, HSPA+, etc.) for only about $23 a month but they require you to pay for 14 month subscription)

  • Paul JJ Alix

    Glad I read this as it helps me choose a less expensive phone for my purpose. I thought I should go LTE but I am gaining more understanding of what that really offers. Thank you.

  • CyanogenMod Guru

    I am using t-mobile’s hspa+ network. I stream videos and do large fast downloads all they long. I see no reason to buy an lte device at this time.

  • lakhwinder

    Very nice information is given. I have notice whole india have H+ network in 90% areas. But speed may vary. In bhopal I have noticed 2mbps download speed just on H. Haridwar 2mbps download speed on H+ . Mukerian 8mbps on H+. Same 8mbps in jalandhar. Some where H+ is giving just 8kbps upload on samsung mobiles but on hueawi on same location same network 300kbps upload.