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I just set up my new iPhone 5.  4G or E-no 3G?

6452 Views 9 Replies Latest reply: Dec 3, 2012 9:19 PM by Psalmy RSS
Psalmy Calculating status...
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Sep 26, 2012 10:30 AM

It goes back & forth from 4G to E.  Doesn't the phone have 3G capabilities when not in 4G?

FYI, I live out of the city limits.

iPhone 5, iOS 6
  • KiltedTim Level 8 Level 8 (35,955 points)
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    Sep 26, 2012 10:33 AM (in response to Psalmy)

    It does have support for 3G networks. Talk to your carrier. There may not be any 3G coverage in your area.

  • m00nman Calculating status...
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    Sep 29, 2012 9:18 PM (in response to Psalmy)

    I have the exact same problem. I contacted At&t about this and was told that the iPhone 5 will revert back to it's lowest compatable data network to save battery life when not in use ( EDGE network) and will the revert back to the most stable and fastest network offered in your area which is At&T's HSPA+(what it BRANDS as "4G" even though it is officialy only recognized as 3G with LTE being the first true 4G) when data is requested BY the phone and not being just sent TO the phone again. This lack of 3G is because AT&T has rebranded their newer 3G network as "4G" and your phone will skip AT&T's less stable UMTS network which is what the iPhone 4 connected to as 3G. Hope this explains the issue as it made sence to me because the iPhone 5/AT&T initially made me mad that it would be on the EDGE network for a few seconds when I first would take it out of my pocket.

  • KiltedTim Level 8 Level 8 (35,955 points)
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    Sep 30, 2012 5:33 AM (in response to m00nman)



    FYI. The ITC officially considers HSPA+ "4G". They also consider LTE "4G". They caved and reduced the term "4G" to nothing more than marketing babble.


    The original specification for a 4G network was essentially tossed in the garbage. It required stable downstream speeds of 100Mbps when mobile and 1Gbps when stationary.


    NONE of the 4G networks on the planet meets those specs.


    Anyway, I suppose the point was that HSPA+, technically IS 4G.


    I think whoever you talked to at AT&T that told you the phone would fall back to the lowest data network to save life was either just completely ignorant or thought they were having fun messing with your head.  That's a load of total bull.  The phone does not fall back to Edge. If yours is, it's because there's either something wrong or the coverage in your area is really lousy.


    AT&T is also in the process of completely shutting down their EDGE network.

  • m00nman Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Sep 30, 2012 9:05 AM (in response to KiltedTim)

    That is true, the ITU in 2010 did reclassify WiMAX and HSPA+ as "4G" but only due to public perception of "4G" being  misguided by carrier marketing of their newer networks as "4G". The iPhone 5 has the Qualcomm MDM9615M which uses makes use of an instruction set they call "Power Optimized Envelope Tracking" that optimizes power usage and thermal characteristics. The instruction set detects when data packets are not being requested BY the phone for periods of time (its not in use) and to preserve power will drop to the most efficient band/data network, which in many rural areas is still EDGE network (UMTS, 3G is very power intensive) and then connects to the fastest and most efficient network (be it LTE, HSPA+, UMTS, or Wifi) when packets are requested by the phone (it's being used). By 2017 ATT expects to have band 4 LTE fully rolled out and will transition to HSPA+ being fall-back with GPRS (Digital 1G), EDGE(2.5G) being phased out and UMTS (3G) being limited to reallocate spectrum to the newer LTE and HSPA+. I contacted ATT because "4G" is not yet shown on the coverage map for my area, yet my new iPhone 5 still connects to 4G seconds after starting to use it.  I myself was disappointed too, when I saw "E" of my phone instead of 3G which the iPhone 4 with its less advanced/less efficient chip pretty much stayed on all the time but this is a good thing and not a flaw with the phone.

  • fromsouth Level 4 Level 4 (3,170 points)
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    Sep 30, 2012 9:29 AM (in response to m00nman)

    Leaving the theoretical discussion aside, the problem I think is with the other iPhone 4, that isn't allowing OP to connect with 4G capability. Most likely service on the business account needs to be upgraded to compatible. Phone does not differentiate between 4 and 3. If data flow is good enough - chip is reading as 4G, if not enough it lets you know, you on Edge.

  • pelicanbeach98 Calculating status...
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    Dec 3, 2012 5:26 PM (in response to Psalmy)

    I stumbled upon this post as I researched my own similar problem to Psalmy's original one. I've used an iPhone 3gs on AT&T for the past three years and at the same particular intersection in my neighborhood outside Seattle, I'd always load a particular traffic map website for my morning commute and the 3gs had no problem connecting at 3G speed at that intersection. Last weekend I just upgraded my phone to an iPhone 5 and my wife to an iPhone 4s, both of us on AT&T. In the past week, I've never seen either phone display 3G connectivity. It's either at "E" or at "4G" (or sometimes "LTE" in the case of the iPhone 5).


    Interestingly at that particular intersection I mentioned, my iPhone 5 connects only at E and struggles to load the traffice map from the particular website I check every morning. I've driven around my neighborhood with both my iPhone 5 and my wife's iphone 4s on the seat next to me. They both either connect at E or at 4G. They never display 3G. And yet for years, my old iPhone 3gs connected at 3g on these same streets. I thus share Psalmy's concern/question. It seems as if these phones, at least at this particular location, try to connect at 4G and if they can't, they fall back to E.


    This of course, is pretty lame given that if 3G speeds are an option in this neighborhood (as I found with my old 3gs), I'd much prefer the phones default to 3G rather than E. What I'm observing actually gives credence to what m00nman was told by the AT&T rep.


    Anyone have any further insight on this? I spoke with first tier support at both AT&T and Apple and they were not particularly helpful. (Told me to reset network settings on the phones--which I will try, but I'm not optimistic)

  • fromsouth Level 4 Level 4 (3,170 points)

    You probably right about everything. But for me it is a pure att marketing trick. I still remember when that happened. Don't recall which update 5.01 or 5.1.1 ( march or may), but suddenly att iphones 4s started showing 4g instead of 3G in one swoop. Right after update, without any updates to any networks, every att phone had small 4G in top left corner. But hey, what do I know. Hope you enjoying your new iphones.


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