4G Report Card

March 18, 2011 | By | Reply More

All of America’s major mobile carriers are touting 4G as the latest must-have for your smartphone or mobile internet access point. The ads highlight the benefits of high speed data for things like streaming videos while on the move. Carriers like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile say they have large networks and the best 4G devices – just how practical are these claims, especially since 4G is so new here in America?

Sprint was the first to offer 4G and now provides 71 markets in 28 states with WiMax service though its partnership with ClearWire. Although Sprint hyped the benefits of 4G, it managed our expectations with speeds that most users can expect to achieve: 3 to 6 Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. In independent testing Sprint provided the second fastest speed, trailing Verizon. Although Sprint is a little behind other carriers that offer LTE technology, their phones are top-notch.

T-Mobile 4G provides service to 200 million people in 100 metropolitan areas. T-Mobile focuses its advertising on top speeds that only a tiny fraction of its users might achieve under ideal conditions. Data speeds vary a great deal from city to city – ranging between 5Mbps and 12Mbps. Your handset also plays a big role: the Samsung Galaxy S 4G could attain a top speed of 14.4 Mbps, yet it practically achieves 5.5 Mbps download and 1.7 Mbps upload. T-Mobile leaves a lot of its users wondering if they live in the right city and have the right handset or USB modem to be able to get the best data speed. Independent testing rated T-Mobile in third place, trailing Sprint, in terms of raw data throughput.

AT&T refrains from saying anything about their 4G speeds. In fact, AT&T is not forthcoming about where you might be able to find 4G service. Independent testing in markets that include New York and New Jersey yielded flat results with speeds well below what a user might expect even at the low end of 4G speeds. AT&T says it is upgrading its internal network and is rolling out faster LTE-based technologies but that does not help people that are not getting the speeds they were hoping for.

Verizon Wireless extends service to over 100 million people in 38 cities. Independent testing resulted in speeds well above advertised values – testing achieved between 5 to 12 Mbps download and 2 to 5 Mbps upload speeds. Speeds ranging between 14 Mbps and 19 Mbps were not uncommon with devices like the HTC Thunderbolt.

While Verizon scores high in speed, it claws back at that score with its proposed tiered plans later this year. The sill proposed tiered pricing structure is not enough to tarnish Verizon’s placement as America’s top carrier as a result of its robust network that’s poised to provide widespread coverage.

Category: News

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