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Why is T-Mobile speed testing its '4G' network against the 3G iPhone?

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T-Mobile's new speed test site pits its HSPA+ phones, which it refers to as "4G," against the 3G iPhone, creating a confusing and potentially unfair comparison.

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T-Mobile Test Drive
T-Mobile Test Drive

While T-Mobile is waiting on its planned LTE network, it's emphasizing the current HSPA+ "4G" as a solid alternative to other carriers' plans. Its latest effort is a site that pits T-Mobile's HSPA+ handsets against the iPhone 4S from AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in a race to transfer files or stream movies. T-Mobile's phone handily beats the competition, but David Beren at TmoNews is left wondering if it's fair for the carrier to compare a phone it says runs on "4G" against the 3G iPhone, especially when faster options are available for all three competitors. Beren admits that he doesn't really expect T-Mobile to pick AT&T or Verizon's fastest phones, but still calls the campaign "a cop-out."

It's clear that T-Mobile's real target isn't the carriers but the iPhone itself, since at this point that's probably its biggest weakness. Still, the ads aren't really doing anything to clear the muddied waters around the 4G terminology. We first wrote about this last year; since then, the label has become, if anything, more meaningless. As Beren notes, T-Mobile could make plenty of good arguments for choosing its phones — price perhaps foremost among them — instead of building a campaign around potentially misleading speed tests.