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Cellphones Wireless Networking The Internet United States

Eight Major 3G & 4G Networks Tested Nationwide 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-coddles-their-packets dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Building on last year's efforts, PCMag once again hit the road on a 6,000 mile trip to test out eight 3G and 4G networks to determine which ones were the fastest (and slowest) in 21 different cities. With 10 stops in each city for at least 15 minutes each, the team used custom speed test software on 16 different handsets which ran HTTP upload and download tests every 25 seconds to 3 minutes. The test results were broken down by city as well as region. As expected, Verizon's 4G led the pack. It performed the best in Dallas, where it averaged 15.75 Mbsp and also hit the highest download speed of 37.66 Mbsp. On the other hand, Sprint's 4G results were disappointing; in some cities even AT&T provided better download speeds. Beyond the 4G, T-Mobile's HSPA+ offered blazing fast speeds as well, going as high up as 15.93 Mbsp in Detroit while averaging the best in Dallas at 6.44 Mbps. Amongst the 3G networks, AT&T mostly outperformed all others."
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Eight Major 3G & 4G Networks Tested Nationwide

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    otherwise this would be first post

  • were mind-blowing the first time I used it. I honestly couldn't believe I was using a mobile data connection.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Check the latency and you will have no trouble believing you are using a mobile connection. Too bad that with the new tiers LTE is worthless.

      • It's not at all worthless. I come in well below 2 gigs (like most users), but I'd certainly love to have web pages and maps load more quickly.

      • by kaiser423 (828989)
        Latency with LTE is drastically reduced than with 3G.

        This is because ,the 4G LTE standard was drafted to allow it to be more directly shoved into packets. In the 3G world, there's actually a lot of processing time spent turning them into IP packets, and sometimes you actually have to wait for more data/control signals form the 3G side before you finish crafting your packets and send them off.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          This is true, that does not mean it is down to what we expect of wired connections though.

          • by bhcompy (1877290)
            or even WiFi
          • by ScentCone (795499)

            that does not mean it is down to what we expect of wired connections though

            You're right. It's a complete rip-off and entirely useless until it's as fast a reading from a local disk drive.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              I never suggested such a thing, merely that the latency is not so low that is is not hard to believe it is a mobile connection.

              Besides that a nice 10Gb ISCSI connection to 30 15k SAS drives is much faster than most cheap SATA drives.

      • by Drathus (152223)

        As an existing unlimited data plan subscriber I don't have to worry about the tiers. For a while at least.

      • Apparently if you have an unlimited plan before 7/7/11, you'll be grandfathered in and won't lose it until you cancel service.

    • by icebike (68054) on Monday June 27, 2011 @04:35PM (#36588662)

      True. Latency be damned, when it downloads its fast.

      But what I found interesting in the charts is that they more or vindicated AT&T as far from the worst carrier, and
      usually second only to T-Mobile in the 3G arena. From the grouse level on the web you would be lead to believe that
      AT&T were the slowest and offered no connectivity at all in most place.

      With an independent assessment, will any of these carriers change their advertising to avoid false advertising claims.

      • I have AT&T and I have driven all over the U.S. for my job with my 3G phone. I have yet to drive down a freeway anywhere and continuously receive a 128 kbps stream. Again, 1 mbps is all I ask.
      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        True. Latency be damned, when it downloads its fast.

        But what I found interesting in the charts is that they more or vindicated AT&T as far from the worst carrier, and
        usually second only to T-Mobile in the 3G arena. From the grouse level on the web you would be lead to believe that
        AT&T were the slowest and offered no connectivity at all in most place.

        With an independent assessment, will any of these carriers change their advertising to avoid false advertising claims.

        Your take is it was AT&T users that complained the most? I always figured it was iPhone users complaining the most. Not to mention, AT&T did have pretty low availability scores in tests gone by, and they have been dumping all that iLoot they earned from exclusivity into network upgrades (as they should) which seems to have brought the problem under control.

  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:51PM (#36588172)
    We will now proceed to the obligatory 579 posts as follows -

    "This is bunk. In [Insert City], [carrier A] sucks donkey balls. [Carrier B] is much better!"

    "Are you joking? [Carrier B] STINKS here in [City C]. I love [Carrier A]! "

    "I wish I could just buy a phone that makes calls!"

    ...followed by anecdotes about cell coverage, speed and pricing in Korea.
    • by toastar (573882)

      We will now proceed to the obligatory 579 posts as follows - "This is bunk. In [Insert City], [carrier A] sucks donkey balls. [Carrier B] is much better!" "Are you joking? [Carrier B] STINKS here in [City C]. I love [Carrier A]! " "I wish I could just buy a phone that makes calls!" ...followed by anecdotes about cell coverage, speed and pricing in Korea.

      Pffft.... Clearly you've never used [Carrier F], Otherwise you wouldn't be complaining about [Carrier A] and [Carrier B]

    • by swb (14022)

      Won't there be the inevitable threads praising/bashing Apple, praising/bashing Android, threads comparing the two, Nokia advocates bashing both and at least one person each evangelizing for webOS and Windows Phone 7?

    • Only old people are still talking about coverage, speed, and pricing in Korea.

      • by sznupi (719324)
        The young remember about those in Finland (1/2 the population density of the US), Sweden (2/3) or Norway (1/3)?
    • I think "Queue the Inevitable threads..." would also work.
    • by demonbug (309515)

      We will now proceed to the obligatory 579 posts as follows -

      "This is bunk. In [Insert City], [carrier A] sucks donkey balls. [Carrier B] is much better!"

      "Are you joking? [Carrier B] STINKS here in [City C]. I love [Carrier A]! "

      "I wish I could just buy a phone that makes calls!" ...followed by anecdotes about cell coverage, speed and pricing in Korea.

      All true. But it would have been nice of them to say what cities in CA they tested in, rather than just lumping "the west" together as CA, AZ, NM without stating where they tested. How can I complain that they didn't include my nearest city if they don't even list the cities?

      That said, I'm pretty sure I would fall under the "rural America" category anyway, so AT&T it is. Oh, and I don't have a data plan anyway, so I'll just stick to complaining about the price of data plans in general (and I will mostly

    • by fermion (181285)
      I would say that coverage for a certain area, in my opinion, is much more important than speed. I recently tried sprint. I was on the coverage map, and I even checked for antennas. They seemed reasonably close. However when I go the device there was minimal connectivity, and even though they said the device was returnable, there was drama at the store.

      Lesson is I would not use this for anything. I may in the market for 4G broadband service and my plan to to check for nearby antennas to where I am goi

    • by Joe Snipe (224958)

      This is bunk because my city (Denver, CO) was skipped entirely.

  • In DC I normally get around 6 Mbps down and 2 up on Sprint 4g, but I pay $53 a month. I'm pretty happy with that.
  • 33kbps at most on AT&T: watching simple web pages load on an iphone is painful and reminiscent of dialup days
    • by alen (225700)

      and what kind of iphone do you have? is it jailbroken without the latest baseband?

      AT&T is always updating the firmware on their towers and apple is sending out new basebands.

      • by billrp (1530055)
        This is an iPhone 3, with latest ios possible, no jailbreak. I just ran the speedtest.net app, and I consistently get 0.010 Mbps down, and 0.00 Mbps up on the AT&T 3G. (Yes, that 10 Kbps down, and less than 10 Kbps up) An iphone 4 and an HTC aria appear to get similar performance with web page downloads (I didn't try speedtest). So - this is even way below dialup days. (We live in the DC/Baltimore area, about 1.5 miles from 2 interstates, it's 6 pm, I have 4 bars, and I'm about 1/2 mile from two ce
        • by segin (883667)
          Here's a solution: Use Wi-Fi. I would think that the network in DC would be congested for all carriers, and each tower is like a Wi-Fi router, in that it is splitting up one single Internet connection with... oh, ballpark figure, 200 maximum active clients per cell? Now imagine all of the towers around you are loaded. Doesn't spell a good picture, does it? If you're really that hard hit for bandwidth, then, no joke, try dropping to the 2G GSM/EDGE network. As everyone's phones are clamoring to hit up the 3G
          • by ncc74656 (45571) *

            Also, I have no instructions for iPhone, as I do not own one, nor know if the network type is even user-selectable on them

            Settings -> Network -> Enable 3G -> Off.

            Didn't know Android made things that complicated. (Punching numbers into the phone app to change device settings? WTF?) My wife has an Atrix, but I've not dug around in it too much.

    • by ncc74656 (45571) *

      33kbps at most on AT&T

      1.92 Mbps down, 1.56 Mbps up, 295 ms ping time is what I'm getting from the office right now.

      (Setup: iPhone 4, iOS 4.3.2 (jailbroken), AT&T, about a mile or so north of downtown Las Vegas.)

  • True 4G (Score:1, Redundant)

    by nemasu (1766860)
    It's too bad they're branding 4G as something that isn't truly 4G. What are they going to call 4G when it really comes out?? 4G+? 4.5G? Slippery slope.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday June 27, 2011 @04:04PM (#36588318)

      These new standards like LTE are much, MUCH faster than existing 3G standards. So it makes sense for them to be called something new for marketing sake and for consumer understanding. However ITU-T decided that to be "4G" you had to be much faster than could currently be done.

      Well the companies decided to just ignore that, and call the current stuff 4G and I don't blame them at all. I mean with LTE on Verizion you are talking a new frequency band, new encoding, much faster speeds, and you don't want to call that a new generation of wireless?

      Standards organizations need to be reasonable with what can be met. Nobody is saying that the current wireless technologies are where we should stop but they are what we can deliver NOW and they are a big step up. Targets shouldn't be set so far advanced. Set that for 5G, or whatever.

    • by afidel (530433)
      Uh, even the ITU relented and says that LTE and HSPA+ are 4G technologies. When LTE Advanced becomes available sometime around the end of the decade it might be called 4.5G or perhaps 5G for marketing purposes.
    • Fun fact: In classical rhetoric, "Slippery Slope" is a logical fallacy; it's invocation usually signifies an inability to create a logically convincing chain of events that would lead to the referenced disastrous outcome. In modern form, "slippery slopes" can be logically valid, if a logically consistent (and probable) chain of events is constructed; however, this is rarely satisfactorily performed.

      I guess we can let you off the hook, though. I don't think you even proposed an actual slippery slope; you mer

      • by nemasu (1766860)
        Interesting and fun indeed. Curious though, let's say I'm following the modern (and logically valid) form, where do you find my logic flawed (not saying it's not) in thinking that: Giving a current technology the name of a future technology will result in all future names of this technology being skewed, unless some major re-evaluation takes place. (Eg. The standards change completely) If this re-evaluation did not take place, and the names were indeed skewed, is it not logical that all future names of this
        • by Methuseus (468642)

          The biggest problem I see is that the 4G spec requires speeds and such that are impossible with current technology, and the specs don't provide any answer as to how to achieve them. With Wifi, at least b, g, and n specs gave you a definition of how each tech would be used rather than just stating it had to reach these certain speeds.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday June 27, 2011 @03:56PM (#36588234)

    Beyond the 4G, T-Mobile's HSPA+ offered blazing fast speeds as well, going as high up as 15.93 Mbsp in Detroit

    Of course the downside is - you have to live in Detroit.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Everything moves faster when it's trying not to get stabbed.

    • Woohoo! Go Cleveland [youtube.com]!

  • A single 3G/4G modem is not a very good test of throughput speeds because numerous other factors such as phone usage, subscribers in the area, and the not level painting of signals all contribute to the results. As long as there's a connection and a basic returning of a web page most customers will be happy. I wonder if the exact count of bits would be good enough to generate random numbers?

    • by grimsweep (578372)

      Theoretically, on a completely empty highway I can achieve speeds in excess of 200mph in a sufficiently powerful car. In practice, most highways will be congested, police officers will be present, the weather may be bad, etc., and I will never be able to go above an average of 60 (in rush hours of many cities, even less). To that effect my compact car is all I really need, and I am more interested in routes to and from work that will avoid congested areas instead of freeways that offer a theoretically hig

  • I find it odd that they did a little of Southern California and Nevada and called that all Rural West. Seems like they missed a big portion of the west coast. including Silicon Forest.
    • by neowolf (173735)
      They didn't hit the mountain west either, like Colorado. "... we couldn't get our drivers as far as the Northwest." Probably would have done been better if it was ski season.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by saschasegan (963148)
        Nah, we just had to plot out a trip that took no more than 22 days, where both cars started in Detroit (that's where we got the cars) and covered the maximum amount of large cities, where each city had as many 3G/4G choices as possible, and with no more than about 350 miles of driving per day. It was gated by things like car availability and publication deadlines.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Mbsp"? Seriously? Is that like a really big tablespoon (tbsp) of data going through the tubes?

    FFS, editors: learn to read.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday June 27, 2011 @05:15PM (#36589242) Journal

    Geez, guys. The whole POINT of wireless is that you can use it anywhere, rather than tethered to a personal access point.

    Yet the wireless companies, during the upgrades from analog to digital and voice to voice-plus-data, have abandoned the space between the cities in favor of serving only the concentrated populations wandering around in urban areas. You aren't limited to your hardwired tether. But you ARE tethered to your "coverage area". And even within that, some areas are drastically degraded compared to others.

    How about some testing of service ON THE ROAD and otherwise out in the boonies, rather than going cross-country yet measuring only in one big city after another.

    • Umm, they did exactly that. Check out the last four pages of the article. Basically, T-Mobile is really good if you live in the middle of no where (until AT&T buys them that is).
    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Point to that! I was traveling through the country using my Android phone as GPS. It's amazing that historical markers and important US spots completely lack of any data (yes, not even Edge).

      I stopped by the Four Corners monument (I have to say that there's not much to see), and I had to make a phone call to get me out of there, because there was no way to get any map information from the network.

      (NOTE: Yes, I know there are applications to download the maps such as MapDroyd and I can also get a GPS do
    • by wye43 (769759)
      Sure, let's go provide coverage on top of the mountains, where nobody uses it, but don't, I mean DON'T ffs provide it in cities, where millions of paying customers need it every single day, every single second - that's lame. After all, real businesses are not afraid to not have customers. They should prioritize the barrens deserts. Now, those are companies with balls of steel.

      A sound business plan, my boy. Let me know how it works out for you.
  • Is that like Megaspoons?
  • It seems a bit weird that they didn't bother standardizing the tests using USB dongles. They are provided by all carriers, more insulated against hardware design differences, and take advantage of the fastest network speeds from all the carriers. I was especially turned off when I saw the T-mobile device only used their 21Mbps network and not their 42Mbps network. It seems like a "Oh... the thunderbolt was released...quickly do a test for HANDHELDS ONLY so we can get some awesome numbers before we would
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by saschasegan (963148)
      No, it's because ... 1) Last year we used USB dongles and it was a bit of an operational nightmare. The drivers kept conflicting and we had to rebuild the laptops a few times, Windows would freak out from time to time for no apparent reason, the tests all had to be initiated by hand, and there are differences in USB dongle performance anyway so it doesn't totally insulate you against that. 2) Last year I got a lot of criticism around "who uses USB dongles? Everybody's on smartphones!" ... so I thought we'
  • FTA:

    So we sent six drivers on a cross-country road trip in Ford cars with lots of mobile phones and custom software designed by network testing firm Sensorly to see just how fast these 4G Internet connections really are.

    Because Fords obviously affect our data rate? Or is product placement so rampet in today's society, that we name-drop in a tech article that is not even remotely related to cars?

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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