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Hey AT&T, how about improving your Wi-Fi speed too?

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About a week ago, AT&T announced their intent to increase their 3G speeds via HSPA+, potentially boosting it to up to 14.4Mbps. That’s all well and good, really. But I have to wonder, AT&T, if your 3G speeds can get that high, why do your Wi-Fi speeds seem so low?

While I don’t regularly set up an office in Starbucks like some people, I am there often enough to use the Wi-Fi now and then, which is included with my iPhone data plan. Primarily I’m checking email or looking up someplace on a map, nothing too intense, but enough to notice there wasn’t much benefit over using 3G, which is especially perplexing because I’m still using the slower iPhone 3G, not the 3GS. I finally decided to do a speedtest and confirm it wasn’t just my imagination.

Sure enough, while the upload speed at the hotspot was considerably better, the download speed, around 1.3Mbps, was barely above the 3G sample I took later, around 1.1Mbps. While this is hardly an exhaustive test of the area hotspots, the 3G test is in line with others I’ve taken, as is the sample of my home broadband, which is a lower tier Comcast offering, at around 4.1Mbps. If I was using a top tier service, the difference would be even more dramatic.

Obviously a busy day in Starbucks with plenty of folks taxing the hotspot would lead to slower speeds, but this was 11:18am on Saturday. Hardly primetime and there wasn’t even a line to get my drink. If I had a 3GS or other smartphone with faster 3G performance, I doubt it would be worth my time to use the hotspot at all (keeping in mind, their 3G network works pretty well for me). AT&T, while I appreciate the added value of hotspot access, for me, there isn’t much value being added. Anyone else with low (or high) AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot speeds to report?

Alleged Apple fanboi, accused Android apologist, and confirmed Microsoft MVP for touch and tablet Mark Sumimoto a.k.a. Sumocat dabbles in all areas of mobile computing with a focus on Windows-based Tablet PCs and pen input. A mobile computing enthusiast since 2004, he pioneered the field of ink blogging via his personal blog, Sumocat's Scribbles. His current tools include a Fujitsu Lifebook T900, TEGA v2, and iPhone 4. Email: sumocat [at] notebooks.com

6 Comments

  1. JJ

    06/03/2010 at 7:32 pm

    I was wondering the same thing. My wifi is extremely slow on this tilt2 and the 3g is actually pretty fast. I would expect the opposite. 6ts very disssapointing, but with the upcoming changes to the data plans, maybe is more to it.

  2. Tony

    12/18/2010 at 8:07 pm

    Over the last month or so, AT&T’s hotspot speed has dropped so much that I am starting to make other plans when I work away from home. It’s very disappointing.

  3. Ged1s

    08/31/2011 at 8:24 am

    Yep same here, Just got new AT&T wifi hotspot at my work and i work nightshift and i am the only one using that wifi at night apparently because im the only one here in 12 floor office building. And wifi is so slow that it takes forever to load pages….once again a week old wifi spot :)))) AT&T cant be cheaper then this, plus I am at facebook offices where wifi should not be sloooooooowwww…..

  4. Frank

    07/10/2012 at 6:52 am

    2 years after the article and still the same: I’m connected to an attwifi hotspot in BWI airport and my download speed is peaking at a blazing 38kb/s. Seriously? I’m right next to the hotspot with full signal and this is what I’m getting. My girlfriend’s apartment complex at UT Dallas had free attwifi and we still pay for Clear wireless internet because the attwifi rarely works.

  5. Glitched

    12/16/2012 at 4:40 am

    At&t wifi at Home Depot averaging speeds of 160kBps (bytes) here. I’m averaging 60kBps on 3G, 1.5 MBps on 4G, and about 3.1MBps on 4G LTE

  6. Finnbennach

    03/21/2013 at 11:50 am

    I agree…ATT really wants their data users to use a wifihotspot where available, but at places like the gym that have a hotspot they’re too slow to even stream some tines on Pandora…..so off goes my wifi antannae and back on the mobile network.

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