AT&T’s 4G Phones Crippled Until April

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For weeks, AT&T customers have grumbled about slow uploads on their supposedly super-fast phones, the Motorola Atrix 4G and HTC Inspire 4G. Now, the carrier’s saying upload speeds will be crippled until some time in April.

The issue lies with High-Speed Uplink Packet Access, or HSUPA, a data transfer protocol capable of 5.5 Mbps uploads. Although the Atrix and Inspire technically support HSUPA, AT&T hasn’t switched on the capability yet, thereby capping upload speeds at a meager 300 kbps.

Until now, AT&T hasn’t made any public statements about the slow upload speeds, but in a statement to Wired, the carrier’s apparently clearing the air. “We will be turning HSUPA upload speeds on via a software update to the Motorola ATRIX 4G and HTC Inspire 4G planned for April,” an AT&T spokesman told Wired, adding that the upcoming Samsung Infuse 4G will support HSUPA at launch.

This is frankly an embarrassment for AT&T, which in the wake of Verizon’s iPhone launch has expressed a newfound love for Android. Given iPhone 4 support for HSUPA, crippling new Android phones doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

AT&T’s vague statement about why these phones didn’t support HSUPA at launch is also a little disturbing. The company’s only explanation so far is that it’s “performing the testing and preparations necessary to ensure that, when we turn this feature on, you will continue to have a world class experience.”

Fair enough. Just bear in mind that the next time AT&T–or any carrier for that matter–bandies the term “4G” at you, it doesn’t have to mean a thing.

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