Updated: AT&T “Inspired” to Kill HSUPA (Fake 4G) on “Inspire 4G”

February 21, 2011 - Written By Maddi Hausmann Sojourner

Whoa, not another HTC story!  Well, at least this one isn’t about the beleaguered Thunderbolt (and we still don’t know when that one’s getting released, heh heh).  Actually HTC doesn’t seem like the bad guy in this story, but read on, because there’s a bit of finger-pointing going on.

Last week AT&T released the HTC Inspire 4G, a smartphone that has the term “4G” in its name.  One might expect such a device would have 4G network ability.  One might.  But BGR notes that the smartphone isn’t a real 4G device.  Well, that could be a matter of semantics, as we’ve already discussed how the US carriers have claimed 4G without meeting the standard, so they redefined the standard instead of upgrading their networks to do 100 Mbps downloads.  But AT&T and T-Mobile’s claimed 4G was really just HSPA+.

Okay, got that, HSPA+ not really 4G but they call it 4G anyway.  Now get this: The Inspire 4G on AT&T doesn’t do HSUPA (high speed upload packet access).  That’s right.  A phone with 4G in the name doesn’t even do the fake 4G the network claims it offers.  This point came about when Inspire users complained that their upload speeds weren’t anywhere near the promised rates expected, and were way slower than downloads. Some were getting a watching-paint-dry result of 200 kbps.  AT&T simply responded that the phone wasn’t HSUPA-compatible.

But the plot sickens: Engadget digs into this fascinating little bit of marketing malarky and says the device is perfectly capable of doing HSPA+, and there are danged few chipsets where one is enabled but not the other.  Furthermore, even HSUPA wasn’t enabled, it’s fairly simple to implement it in firmware, so somebody at either HTC or AT&T made the decision to cripple it.

Engadget does add that it is possible HSUPA has been disabled in 4G markets for some compatibility reason, although the Apple iPhone 4 seems to have it working just fine, thank you.

Conclusion: For some reason AT&T has disabled HSUPA on this phone.  Do you have an Inspire 4G?  What kinds of download versus speeds are you seeing?

Update 10:46 EST: A new post over at Android Central suggests you can solve this problem by rooting the phone and installing a custom HTC Desire HD ROM onto the Inspire 4G.  They are, after all, essentially the same phone.  This is not the easiest, or even the best solution, as there are comments that it will impact on sound quality, but it does suggest that a software fix by somebody (even if not AT&T themselves) is going to clear this mess up.  This link will take you to an Inspire 4G hacking kit on xda-developers.  Again, don’t proceed with this unless you know what you’re doing, and even if you do, always read through these threads before doing anything.  This is a thread by developers and things are always changing.  And it’s a long thread.

Another suggested fix involves changing one variable in the buil.prop file.  There is a line in the file that says ro.ril.hsxpa=1 One commenter suggested changing the value to 2 to enable both HSUPA and HSDPA, another commenter suggested setting the variable to 3.  Again, we’ll keep an eye on this and let you know when a stable and working solution is at hand.

This thread over at xda-developers has several users mentioning that AT&T hasn’t turned HSPA+ on yet  in most places, and won’t be until March 1st.  But that doesn’t explain why AT&T was so quick to claim the phone itself wasn’t HSUPA-compatible.

Sources: BGR, Engadget, Android Central