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AT&T LTE network tops speed test, but Verizon still has the best LTE coverage

Published Mar 11th, 2013 4:04PM EDT
4G Network Speeds

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You can’t go five minutes without seeing an advertisement for the fastest, largest, cheapest or most reliable network in the United States. Mobile service providers keep pushing their own brands of 4G wireless services to entice consumers, however it is becoming increasingly difficult to decide between Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T), Sprint (S), T-Mobile and the assorted number of smaller carriers. Besides price and coverage, which are both important aspects consumers should consider, data speeds should play a major role in carrier choice especially when signing a lengthy two-year service agreement. With all the advertising hoopla going on, however, it can be hard to get the facts. To make things a little easier, research firm RootMetrics recently tested the four major carriers to find out which one operates the fastest network in the America.

The firm found that AT&T’s 4G LTE network is the fastest with download speeds averaging 18.6 Mbps and average upload speeds of 9.0 Mbps. The carrier had unmatched maximum download speeds, which topped the charts at a whopping 57.7 Mbps, and impressive maximum upload speeds of 19.6 Mbps. AT&T’s LTE network had a connection rate of 81.7%, however when LTE wasn’t available the company’s HSPA network still offered decent speeds. AT&T’s older 3G network averaged download speeds of 4.3 Mbps and upload speeds of 1.1 Mbps, well ahead of comparable 3G offerings.

Verizon was found to operate the second fastest LTE network with average download speeds of 14.3 Mbps and upload speeds of 8.5 Mbps. Speeds on the carrier’s network reached 49.3 Mbps for maximum downloads and an “extremely fast” 19.7 Mbps maximum upload speed. While Verizon’s network was found to be slightly slower than AT&T’s, the company has a larger footprint and was available in all 77 markets tested, compared to 47 tested markets for AT&T’s LTE service. RootMetrics noted that it was able to connect to Verizon’s LTE network 9 out of 10 times.

While Sprint’s LTE offering is still in its infancy, the network showed great potential. The carrier averaged 10.3 Mbps for LTE downloads and 4.4 Mbps for LTE uploads, but was available in just five of the 77 markets tested. Sprint’s high-speed service maxed out at 32.7 Mbps down and 9.9 Mbps up. The firm was able to access the company’s network 50.2% of the time.

T-Mobile hasn’t rolled out its 4G LTE network yet, and while the company markets its HSPA+ network as 4G, it can’t really compete with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. The company’s HSPA+ network averaged download speeds of 7.3 Mbps and upload speeds of 1.5 Mbps, both of which are considered impressive for non-LTE offerings.

If you are looking for the fastest speeds you should check out AT&T. If you want the best coverage, Verizon is the place to be. On a budget and still interested in impressive networks? No problem, check out Sprint or T-Mobile.

Dan joins the BGR team as the Android Editor, covering all things relating to Google’s premiere operating system. His work has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn’t testing the latest devices or apps, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.