The four major carriers in the United States — Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — all advertise some form of 4G technology, whether it is LTE, WiMAX or HSPA+, and each company claims to have either the most reliable, biggest, fastest or best network. PCWorld put the carriers claims to test in its “2012 Mobile Speed Test” and found that AT&T’s 4G LTE service featured the fastest download speeds while Verizon’s 4G LTE network provided the fastest upload speeds. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 21 network was the fastest 3G service and the carrier’s HSPA+ 42 service held its own with both AT&T’s and Verizon’s 4G networks, making T-Mobile a good choice for many wireless users who are looking for affordable plans. Sprint’s 3G service and WiMAX technology lagged behind the competition according to the report. The “real-world speed tests” were conducted in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington DC. PCWorld’s press release follows below.
AT&T Fastest 4G Service, T-Mobile Fastest in 3G, PCWorld Mobile Speed Tests Reveal
Sprint lags badly behind in both 3G and 4G speeds, 13-city testing shows.
San Francisco, April 17, 2012—Mobile internet service is a major monthly expense for most American consumers, and a very big business for U.S. wireless companies. The marketing machines of those companies are now in high gear, touting their services as the industry transitions from 3G service to the much faster 4G. Problem is, everybody’s service is “4G”, “most reliable”, “biggest”, “fastest” and “best,” if you believe all the names and claims flying about on TV, radio, print media and the Web.
That’s why PCWorld has once again hit the road to measure the real-world performance of the four major wireless services on America’s streets and in its coffee shops. During February and March of this year, PCWorld measured the speeds of the major U.S. carriers’ 3G and 4G wireless services from 130 locations in 13 major U.S. cities.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STUDY
AT&T had the fastest download speeds of any 4G service, along with an HSPA+ service that’s very competitive with 3G services–a compelling service combination for AT&T dual-mode phones.
T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 21 service proved faster overall than comparable 3G services in our study, and the carrier’s high-end HSPA+ 42 service held its own with the 4G services of its larger competitors. Those services, and the array of flexible and affordable plans it offers, make T-Mobile a good choice for many wireless users.
Verizon has 4G service in many more locations than other providers, but in most localities the download speed of its 4G service doesn’t match AT&T’s (though its upload speeds are faster, more often than not). And Verizon’s 3G speeds have not improved much, especially when compared to the competition.
Sprint is a consistent laggard in the wireless speed races. The company appears to have virtually stopped developing its network while looking for a way to transition from its outdated WiMAX 4G technology to LTE.
“The big surprise in this year’s study is T-Mobile’s performance,” says PCWorld Senior Editor Mark Sullivan, who designed and managed the study. “By offering data speeds that are very competitive with AT&T and Verizon along with its affordable data plans, T-Mobile is proving why its proposed acquisition by AT&T last year would have been bad news for US consumers.”
“The other (rather sobering) surprise in this year’s data is Sprint’s poor performance, both in 3G and 4G service. The carrier’s speeds suggest that both the Sprint CDMA and WiMAX networks have seen very little investment and upgrade over the past year—in a mobile data market where the rule is ‘grow faster or parish.’”
While a majority of wireless consumers still use slower 3G devices today, most will transition to faster 4G devices over the next five years as carriers push them to upgrade to newer 4G devices when their contracts expire, Sullivan says. Meanwhile wireless companies will continue to increase their networks’ data transfer speeds to compete for new customers and retain old ones.
FASTEST 3G AND 4G SERVICES BY CITY:
Atlanta — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Boston — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Chicago — 3G: AT&T; 4G: AT&T
Dallas — 3G: AT&T; 4G: AT&T
Denver — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
Los Angeles — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Las Vegas — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
New Orleans — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
New York — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
San Jose — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
San Francisco — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Seattle — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
Washington DC — 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
“Our annual speed study is an important part of what we do at PCWorld,” explains VP, Editorial Director, Steve Fox. “Many consumers look to us for an unbiased, independent, empirical assessment of the wireless technology and services being offered in the U.S. today.”
“It’s exciting to see the data speed wars heating up as the wireless providers move from 3G to 4G technology in their networks and devices,” Fox says. “We only hope that the competition eventually translates into better performance and better value for consumers.”
Our testing cities:Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington DC