Confused about Straight Talk Wireless 3G and LTE Network Connections

A reader, Elizabeth, asks…

I am sorry if you have answered this already but I am getting confused reading responses and trying to figure out if they apply to me. Here is my situation:

I bought a iPhone 5s unlocked from Apple. I bought a Straight Talk wireless ATT sim card and have been happily using the service for the last year and a half. We have a brand new ATT tower in town so I have been surprised that I don’t get 4G on my phone but didn’t think too much of it until a friend who has an iPhone 5s on ATT was able to get 4G at my house. I called Straight Talk today and they said that my phone is not 4G compatible. A quick search on the internet (and my friend’s experience) indicates this is just not true.

Is it possible for me to get 4G service on this phone? I have LTE and Cellular Data enabled on the phone.

PS I get 3G now, not 4G.
Thank you!

Hi Elizabeth,
This is a frequently asked question here, and it is a little confusing.

First, I don’t know why you aren’t getting a 4G LTE connection. That said, I can help you understand this.

If you bought your iPhone 5s unlocked at the Apple Store and the model number(on the back of the phone) is A1533, A1457, or A1530 your phone should get a 4G LTE connection when using the ATT network.

If your not getting an 4G LTE connection, it’s possible that the ATT network doesn’t support LTE in your area. If this is the case, you may see your status bar indicator change from 3G to LTE when you travel to an area where LTE is supported.

Also, it helps to understand that ATT uses different status bar indicators. They use 3G, 4G, and LTE. The 4G indicator is used when you have an HSPA or HSPA+ connection. HSPA a type of network connection that is technically fast enough to be considered a 4G technology but slower than 4G LTE. Straight Talk only uses the 3G and LTE indicators, so you’ll see a 3G indicator in your status bar when and iPhone on ATT would display a 4G indicator.
If you want to know the reason why, you can read I Updated My iPhone to Net10 & Straight Talk Carrier Update TFW 15.7 and Now My 4G Is Only 3G!

So if your friend with the iPhone 5s on ATT has a 4G indicator, it’s probably the network in your area. If your friend is seeing a LTE indicator, well, its something else.

If that’s the case, you could try resetting your network settings and see if you get an LTE connection. See Resetting Network Settings on Your iPhone. Sometimes this helps.

If your friend is getting an LTE connection, you can also try swapping SIMs with your friend. See if your phone then gets an LTE connection and their phone gets a 3G connection. While this won’t solve the problem, but will give us a little more information to work with.

Finally, I suggest that you get the SpeedTest app and measure the speed of your data connection. The overall speed is more important that the type of connection you have. Check out this video to see me using the SpeedTest app.
AT&T Prepaid GoPhone Wireless SpeedTest Results – Part 1.

I hope this helps.

12 Comments

  1. Elizabeth | | Reply

    Oh, I see. I do see the LTE indicator sometimes, just not at home. I suppose my iPhone is fast enough and I should shut up and be grateful for what I have!

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hi Elizabeth,
      I think its great you are asking questions. You are being an informed consumer, trying to understand if you are getting the best value out of the service you are paying for. For $540 a year, it’s worth understanding what you are paying for. By commenting, you are adding to value and helping future readers understand the issues.

  2. Elizabeth | | Reply

    Wow, yes that helps. So thorough! I really appreciate your taking the time to explain it to me. I will definitely run the speed test.

    Can you clarify something? You said: “Straight Talk only uses the 3G and LTE indicators, so you’ll see a 3G indicator in your status bar when and iPhone on ATT would display a 4G indicator.” So if my status bar says 3G it’s actually getting (or could be getting) 4G? Also, given that I use Straight Talk on the ATT network, if my status bar says LTE, what does that mean?

    Thanks again!

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hi Elizabeth.
      LTE means LTE. On the iPhone, the 4G indicator was a marketing thing. ATT invented it because the iPhone 4s didn’t support LTE and they wanted to market their #1 selling phone as 4G. You can read more about this here, I Updated My iPhone to Net10 & Straight Talk Carrier Update TFW 15.7 and Now My 4G Is Only 3G!. See the link in that article to a story on The Verge about the 4G. Android phones display a H, H+, oe sometimes a 3.5G, which I think is better. You can also read this article Reader Speed Test Results.

      So again.
      ATT – your see 3G, 4G, or LTE. the 4G is when you have an HSPA or HSPA+ connection
      Straight Talk ATT 3G or LTE, 3G for either a 3G connection or a HSPA or HSPA+ connection

      • Elizabeth | | Reply

        Hi and thanks for your reply. I wanted to say that I watched the video you made showing speed tests with two different networks. I ran the tests at my home on my iPhone 5s on the Straight Talk ATT network with my phone showing 3G. The tests were nothing like the speed you had! I ran the test three times and here are the averaged results: download: 7.67 upload: .52 PING: 139
        Sigh…

        • Bob Thompson | | Reply

          Hi Elizabeth,
          7mbps down is a respectable speed. While my speeds in the video are much higher. I made that video in the office and not at home, at home my speeds can be between 3 and 4. I wanted to ask, did your friend’s Att iphone show a 4G or LTE indicator?

          • Elizabeth | |

            She said 4G but I didn’t see it myself. She was here again a few days ago but I forgot to ask her. I will look at her phone next time she’s here. Thank you.

          • Bob Thompson | |

            If she said 4G, it was probably 4G. I am guessing because if it said LTE, she probably would have said that.

        • Grant | | Reply

          Are you sure that you are using a 5s and not a 5? I have an iPhone 5 on Straight Talks ATT and with Bob’s help, I have learned that if it says 3G, it very well could be on 4G. My average speed test results are: 9.50-11.00 mbps down, 1.00-1.30mbps up, and ping is 150. But I have gotten up to the mid 15.00s down and as low as 3.00 down, all the time saying 3G. But 90% of the time its around 10mbps down. If you are using an iPhone 5 instead of the 5s, that would answer the problem.

          • Elizabeth | |

            My phone is an iPhone 5s. I don’t really get why you think that would “answer the problem” but anyway, it’s definitely a 5s. Thank you.

          • Bob Thompson | |

            Hi Elizabeth,
            The Verizon iPhone 5 Is not compatible LTE on the att network, only 3G or 4G. The Verizon iPhone 5s is compatible with LTE on the att network. The radios in the 5s support the LTE bands used by att.

          • Grant | |

            Because Straight Talks iPhone 5 will only show 3G. Just trying to help. Good luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *