The nation’s fourth-largest cell phone carrier is debuting a new tv-based ad campaign today, and, boy, are they coming out with guns a-blazin’. T-Mobile’s new marketing strategy not only brands the company’s HSPA+ footprint, long referred to as a network that offers “near-4G” connections in company press materials, as “America’s Largest 4G Network”, it does so at the expense of AT&T and Sprint.
But is T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network truly 4G? Not according to the International Telecommunications Union. Then again, by those same standards, neither are Sprint and Verizon’s 4G networks either.
So what’s T-Mobile left to do? Join their rivals in redefining “4G” based on consumer understanding.
“Today T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network is delivering 4G speeds that match and often beat WiMAX and are readily comparable to what early LTE will deliver,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in a press announcement. “Our 4G network is capable of theoretical speeds up to 21Mbps and we have seen average download speeds approaching 5 Mbps on our myTouch 4G phone in some cities with peak speeds of nearly 12 Mbps.” So if it moves comparably fast to the existing concept of 4G, then it is 4G.
To kick off its new take on 4G, T-Mobile’s got a hilarious new ad that pokes fun at Apple’s iconic “I’m a Mac” campaign. In it a young woman introduces herself as the new T-Mobile MyTouch 4G smartphone. Next a young man piggybacking another older, balding man introduces himself as the iPhone 4. When the younger man explains that the gentleman on his back is the “old, AT&T network”, T-Mobile responds, “Oh, that’ll slow you down.”
The commercial continues to prey on AT&T’s reputation for slouching 3G data speeds as well as the limitations of the iPhone 4′s Wi-Fi-only Facetime video call feature.
That claim is true, but it doesn’t mean T-Mobile’s video call solution is a better experience than that of Apple and FaceTime. During testing for our full review, the T-Mobile myTouch 4G notched 1.5Mbps download and 1.3Mbps upload rates when connected to the HSPA+ network, but video calls made from our New York City office – Manhattan is a market with HSPA+ service – both Qik and Yahoo Messenger were plagued with seconds-long frame rate delays and heavily pixilated video.
T-Mobile launches this campaign at the same time it announces six new markets with HSPA+ data, the carrier’s answer to Sprint and Clearwire’s existing shared 4G data network as well as Verizon’s LTE network, which is scheduled to go live in 25 markets later this month (though with no available devices that access the network).
We’ve seen branding spats between Verizon and AT&T played out in the past. Likewise Sprint was eager to brand itself the “Nation’s Only 4G Network” during the HTC Evo’s launch in June. Now it looks like T-Mobile is breaking back into the fray with fists flying.