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AT&T and Verizon LTE Networks Compared 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the competition-is-good dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "AT&T launched a speedy 4G LTE network in five cities on Sunday, and the question that comes to mind is how it compares to Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE system. Well, according to the eight rounds of testing conducted in Houston, Texas, Verizon may have something to worry about. Downloads over the AT&T network averaged about 24Mbps and peaked at 42.85Mbps, the fastest cellular connection seen to date. Just as interesting as the sheer download speeds were the connection quality results: Pingtest.net generally rated the network an A or a B, good enough for video chat or gaming."
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AT&T and Verizon LTE Networks Compared

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  • Reliable, consistent wifi suitable for gaming and deployed across a broad area would certainly be a welcome development... MW2 over mobile broadband?

    Alas... my experience with wireless networks is that they tend to vary wildly in their throughput, their reliability (especially in regards to dropped or delayed packets) and, especially here in Australia, their cost. Most sub $100 mobile broadband plans have less than 10gb a month. And that's over 3G; an upgrade to 4G would have to bring with it significant co

    • Re:Gaming...? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @12:34AM (#37452590) Homepage Journal

      It's also an uncongested network with a minimal number of connected devices at this time. Let's wait and see how it holds up under load -- that's been AT&T's weakness for a while now.

      • Re:Gaming...? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @01:05AM (#37452776)

        Agreed.

        There is nobody on AT&T's network.
        Its easy to be fast when your company currently offers virtually zero devices to run on its brand spanking new LTE network.

        Give it a few months then the Movie streamers show up.

        Then again, who can possibly use this speed when the current usage caps are so tight? Is it really that important to get
        that email or that tweet that much faster? Forget movies, forget video-chat. No one can afford it with the tiers they have
        set up.

        Lets hope AT&T applies all $39 Billion bucks they will save by not being allowed to buy T-Mobile, adds in the $19 billion [pcmag.com]
        already planned, and builds a first class LTE network that can actually carry the load.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          I'm curious when AT&T is going to be rolling out 3G service. They claim to have it, but I ended up trading in my 3G capable phone because the service was almost non-existent. And I live in a major city. I found myself disabling it most of the time because it wouldn't be available and would take forever to drop down to edge.

        • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @02:07AM (#37453066) Homepage Journal

          Exactly. Assume the 250MB cap. At the 24Mbps quoted in TFS, that's 2 minutes.

          • Isn't that hilarious?

            "You have excelled in speed, now use it fast because yo' cap ain't gonna last more than a couple o' minutes."

            I guess I can pull up the weather maps and check the daily forecast to stay under my limit; it will pop up faster than it did before. Wooooowwwwwwwww.
            /sarcasm

      • Uncongested (Score:5, Interesting)

        by KingSkippus (799657) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @01:11AM (#37452800) Homepage Journal

        From the article:

        Of course, we're comparing a loaded Verizon network full of Droid Bionics and HTC Thunderbolts to a brand-new AT&T system just out of the wrapping paper.

        Fact is, AT&T has screwed up, without exception, every single aspect of my life they've managed to touch. I had their cable service for a little while when my former provider sold out to AT&T. Fortunately, I moved shortly after that. Their residential phone service is woefully expensive. Their cellular service cuts out consistently, and I can barely get a signal (which is an improvement that only happened in the last two years--before that, I was SOL trying to use my company-issued AT&T phone) where I work in downtown Atlanta. I had 1.5 Mbps DSL at my house, as they didn't have any speed faster than that, until I figured out one day that Comcast had 16 Mbps service for a lower price.

        Right now, AT&T has exactly zero--zero--LTE smartphones on its network, so yeah, I don't doubt it's fast. I simply do not trust the network to hold up to a real-life data load, though, so no thanks.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      A fair few areas don't have reliable 3G access anyway. 4G is a long way away for us... gah.

      I noticed something rather interesting when looking at one of the cell companies' websites: the LTE coverage area showed solid coverage in a lot of areas where 3G showed poor or no signal. Apparently, LTE does a lot better than 3G at handling stuff like multipath interference, multi-tower interference, and other issues that currently plague areas with high population density, tall buildings, rocky topography, or some

      • 4G's lower-layer method is MIMO. With much less battery life, of course reception and transmission overall efficiency will be increased. There will be a loss with said increase, like every other balance.

        I don't like the battery life of my Samsung Infuse with AT&T with HSPA+; I can't imagine how bad it would be with 4G. Of course, it is said that my Infuse supports firmware update to upgrade to LTE when it comes to fruition, but I will bet money that AT&T will say that it can't and charge for upgr

  • Great... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So now I can hit my 5 GB cap in less than 30 minutes. Hurray!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poofmeisterp (650750)

      So now I can hit my 5 GB cap in less than 30 minutes. Hurray!

      I'll bite on this one.

      The overage charges will pay for the providers' hardware overhauls in 6 months or less. I betcha, I betcha.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wait until there are actually people using the network before taking any results seriously.
    We all know how well AT&T handles lots of phones on their network (NYC).

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)
      Just what I was thinking. If the test didn't include at least 200 devices (VERY conservative estimate) on each network node then the results might as well have been on a dedicated landline.
      • Just what I was thinking. If the test didn't include at least 200 devices (VERY conservative estimate) on each network node then the results might as well have been on a dedicated landline.

        LOL! No kidding. How many comment pages could be filled with reference links to "false representations" from corporations in the past that looked "so damn fine" when they came out? :)

  • by tagno25 (1518033) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @12:18AM (#37452526)

    How well does it perform when moving at 30mph and 60mph? So what if it works good an a stationary device on a network with very few users, that does not mean that it will work good with more users or while moving.

    • by icebike (68054)

      How well does it perform when moving at 30mph and 60mph? So what if it works good an a stationary device on a network with very few users, that does not mean that it will work good with more users or while moving.

      If it were to drop down to GPRS speed when you were moving at 60mph that might prove a good thing.

      Let them put wifi on trains.

      • by tagno25 (1518033)

        Tell that to the passengers on a bus or the other people in the car. And putting WiFi on buses would not help, since the bus would still need a way to get internet.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          Tell that to the passengers on a bus or the other people in the car. And putting WiFi on buses would not help, since the bus would still need a way to get internet.

          Simple... FTTBus

          ;)

        • by hedwards (940851)

          The local bus service was doing that for a while. Not sure what happened with it. But it was a WAP on the bus hooked up to a cell signal. They were experimenting with a few of the longer routes, but I think they may have cut the experiment due to lack of funding.

      • by Cimexus (1355033)

        And the WiFi on the train is served by what? Ah - a cellular data connection...

  • Verizon's network has been live for quite a while now and there's a decent number of customers actively using it. I would wager there wasn't many other AT&T customers sharing resources when these tests were conducted, but on Verizon's there was.

    I'll be curious to see these tests repeated in six months, a year, etc.

    (NOTE: not a Verizon fan... I'm with Sprint... just pointing out the obvious).

    • When Verizon's 4G went live, they passed out 4G aircards to everyone in the media so they could report on how "blazingly fast" the 4G speeds were. In the same way, the VZW 4G network was essentially empty, with no real live users online yet.

      VZW 4G has held up fine so far, but it's still essentially an empty network. The real test results won't be known for another year or two, when 4G smartphones become as ubiquitous as 3G is today.

    • by rocket97 (565016)
      IIRC when the Thunderbolt first came out and no one was on the Verizon network people were getting 80Mb+ down and 20Mb+ up. I know with my Bionic I am averaging 30Mb down and 15Mb up on Verizon LTE.
  • Bandwidth limits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsborg (111459) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @12:22AM (#37452542) Homepage

    Am I the only person completely unexcited by 4G given the bandwidth limit to speed ratio?

    On either Verizon or AT&T one can easily swallow up the entire 200/250MB lower tier limit in a matter of minutes. The 2GB higher end plan is a mere hours of airtime away. What happens when some rogue app or website pushes you well over the edge? Is this the texting overage nightmare ripe for abuse again? How the hell can you game on this kind of network with such low limits?

    4G/LTE means nothing if the bandwidth limits are so paltry as to effectively make it a metered service.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      On the plus side, if they continue to work on upgrading their damned networks, maybe they'll finally raise the caps OR remove them?

    • by mpoulton (689851)
      I consider myself lucky to have a grandfathered Verizon unlimited data plan, which is now renewed for another 2 years since I got a Droid Bionic last week. Can they still cap me if I use loads? Yes, but they can't charge me more and I'll start anew the next month.
      • They say no - I was in looking at the Bionic last week, and have a grandfathered plan as well. According to them, as long as I stay with a smartphone my unlimited plan is grandfathered. But if I drop to a cheap phone then I'll lose it. How do you like the Bionic? I tried several of the 4G phones and it seemed the best of the ones they had in the store, but I've been hanging on to my Treo for four years now so I'm not up on the latest.

        • by twohands (2443766)
          The Bionic is a fine phone, and probably the best choice on Verizon right now. October will see some phones eclipse it - the HTC Vigor looks to have an HD screen (probably NOT pentile), and the Galaxy (Nexus) Prime is also on the horizon, and neither will be as locked down as the Bionic. I think would be worth waiting if I was in no hurry to upgrade.
    • You can use 5GB no problem. Having had 4G for awhile now I don't mind it, but it doesn't excite me at all. It is nice to have things load rather quickly on the phone, all the things I did before like get e-mail and so on happen much faster, more like a wired connection. However the idea that I'd be able to use it for all sorts of new tasks, or as a replacement to my cable modem is stupid. The 5GB limit means that all I'm going to do with it is what I do now: Get e-mail, download apps, check things on the we

    • by Subratik (1747672)

      They'll bump up the datacaps when they get enough money from the people that go over the limit and then complain enough to clog up their customer support lines.

      Business as usual...

      • Actually IMHO it would be easiest and most sensible for them to just have reasonable ramp-up from the static limit, so if you go over you just get charged extra at the same equivalent per-MB rate. Say you're paying a hypothetical $40 per month for the data portion of the contract, for 4GB (easy math...) That's 10c per MB, so just charge 10c per MB over the 4GB until the end of the month. If (due to network issues) it's necessary to discourage serious overuse, then increase the rate on a sliding scale -

    • It's psychologically about status and 'first-to-play'.

      Many, MANY people want to be the 'first to have [something]', and many others want to live in the world of being 'above the rest'.

      Those desires, combined with the limitations of usage imposed by the provider, equal profit in the end. Nice equation; been used for years.

      Add shame on to the end and you have a winner (e.g. "I uh... MEANT to use 20x my data cap this month because it was ummm.. important stuff that I needed and I uhh.. planned on it ahead o

    • 4G/LTE means nothing if the bandwidth limits are so paltry as to effectively make it a metered service.

      Metering isn't the problem - it's the rates. Verizon is charging pretty much the same per bit today as they did in 2004 when I got a Treo 650. They're more interested in overage charges than providing a solid network. I'd be happy to be metered at a rate that was some function of cost+plus - price rationing of limited resources (spectrum) usually works well.

      But, look at AT&T's proposed merger with T

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday September 20, 2011 @12:25AM (#37452558)

    Just-activated network that only works with a handful of just-released devices is surprisingly fast and uncongested. Film at eleven.

  • I still have no bars... how did you do this test?
    • Ha ha, you're so funny...not. Even as large as Houston is (and you're not using a POS cheap phone), you can drive around the entire 610 loop and not drop the call. And that's during rush-hour traffic through the Galleria west loop side too.

    • Maybe you are holding it wrong :-)
  • Smithers fire the engineer that made this possible and the person who let it slip out.
    The masses will be demanding this type of thing now and well be hard pressed to come up
    with a plausible reason that we have to price it just out of their reach.

    • by EzInKy (115248)

      And that is the real problem with AT&T, they are just too frigging big to care about anything but AT&T. Years ago an attempt was made to resolve that problem but, like Replicators, they just seem to be able to reconstitute themselves from remnants of their former selves.

      • You are making the mistake of thinking that the AT&T of today is the AT&T that was broken up. It isn't. Today's AT&T is no more the original AT&T than Verizon is. It is actually an interesting comparison. The parts of Verizon that were not part of the original AT&T are less significant in the formation of Verizon than the parts of current AT&T that were not part of the original AT&T (and those parts became part of current AT&T before it bought the carcass of the original AT
  • The question that comes to my mind is when the hell are they going to improve service availability. In my major city's metropolitan area you can drop calls all over the place. Coverage is full of huge gaping holes, some of them a decade old. Out of town, along the interstates, calls drop like flies as 3G to Edge and back handoffs fail like so many stimulus plans. When coverage IS available the oversold bandwidth is filled to capacity often enough that "Call Failed" with 4 bars of coverage is commonplace

  • > averaged about 24Mbps and peaked at 42.85Mbps

    So can we please STOP calling it 4G?

    Granted, I don't expect the people who work for at&t and verizon to be anything other than lying sacks of crap. But shouldn't a site that bills itself as "news for nerds" strive for better?

    • I think you need to re-read the spec.

      • by SvnLyrBrto (62138)
        Perhaps you should put away your copies of the verizon and at&t press kits and read the spec again yourself.

        http://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-r/opb/rep/R-REP-M.2134-2008-PDF-E.pdf [itu.int]

        The fact is there are only two technologies developed so far that the ITU has acknowledged as meeting the 4G requirements. Those are "LTE-Advanced" and "WirelessMAN-Advanced" (aka WiMAX Advanced); neither one of which is actually what is being deployed and marketed by at&t or verizon:
        http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/p [itu.int]

      • by SvnLyrBrto (62138)

        Tacky to reply twice to the same comment, I know. But to use the ever-so-popular automotive analogy...

        What the cellular carriers, and those in the press going along with them, are doing is advertising and selling a car to the public as having a V-8 engine. But when you actually open up the hood, all that's there is an inline-4 and a can of mixed vegetable juice.

    • While I agree that cellular carriers are generally lying sacks of crap (and I think that's putting it kindly), I can't entirely fault them for pushing LTE as 4G. I think the ITU was wildly optimistic with their bandwidth requirements. The ITU even later revised their position to state that LTE, WiMax, and HSPA+ qualified as 4G. While part of that was bending to pressure from carriers, it was also a tacit admission that they were wrong with their original targets.

      Other than the unrealistic bandwidth requirem

  • PCMag's work made for a useful location-specific test, but it's still lacking in details. Specifically, how wide are the channels AT&T and Verizon are using in that area? If AT&T is using wider channels then of course they're going to have more bandwidth*, but because channel widths are location specific (AT&T and Verizon don't have the same allocations everywhere), it's entirely non-representative if AT&T or Verizon's channel widths were significantly different from the national average.

    * I

  • Sure, when there are ~5000 or so people using the entire AT&T 4G network, in a pathetic handful of cities, you'll get great speed. Under full and prolonged deployment, I guarantee it will drop significantly. If you want a real test of "who's better", compare the networks *under the same load* instead of just a side-by-side of a one-day-old network with virtually no users versus a months-old network with a huge user base.

    No matter how much AT&T pushes, they will always fall behind Verizon because the

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Indeed, AT&T has made me seriously consider going back to Sprint. The only reason I don't is that I'm on a family plan because it's cheaper than getting my own plan. But, around here Sprint and T-Mobile seem to have the best reception.

      AT&T is just a pathetic pile of dog shit that's been eaten re-shit a few times before being pissed on. For a while I had a 3G capable phone and the service was so bad that I ended up disabling the 3G support in the phone so that I could get a consistent connection. It

    • by Aereus (1042228)

      Can't you just renew your plan or keep it going? It was my understanding that as long as you don't adjust that part of your plan coverage, you get to keep it going. I've had the exact same mobile plan from Verizon for going on 6 years now and it's never changed even in the periods between me renewing the 2year contract. Unless something is changed you should be able to just renew another 2 year contract or stay month-to-month and keep the unlimited data.

    • Your unlimited data plan is grandfathered as long as you don't remove the option from your account (ie: switch away from a smartphone).
    • According to the local VZW rep, as long as you get another smartphone (or keep the one you've got) your unlimited plan will be grandfathered in. Of course they could change their mind, but hey.

    • by tkrotchko (124118)

      What's amazing is AT&T could build out their infrastructure; AT&T Wireless is very profitable (check their annual report), but they choose to pay investors instead of invest in their own infrastructure.

      Its their company, they should do with it as they think best, but when they consistently have a bad network, and blame their users for it, it rings a bit hollow, doesn't it/

  • ...with LTE-Advanced. ATT is JUST NOW getting in the game. I remember when Verizon first dropped LTE. It rated much higher then as well, what with no devices or users clogging the network. All the while, Verizon has been rolling LTE and devices out like mad, nation wide. And in the background, they have been working on LTE-Advanced, which will take speeds, and more importantly, latency far beyond what their current LTE can provide. Add to this that it's a simple upgrade on there part to roll it out, a
    • What about LTE 4G phones? They won't be able to do LTE-advanced will they? Assuming not, when is all that LTE-advanced goodness likely to happen - both in network and in the phones? Not that it matters much to me - I'm about 50 miles from the nearest 4G-capable towers. They say next year for sure... :P

  • Well maybe in the US. Over here in Europe we have seen speeds up to 90 Mbit/s over 4G(LTE) for quite some while. This article that compares different 4G networks in Sweden from January this year sheds some light (it's in Swedish but the graphs are readable): http://www.idg.se/2.1085/1.364964/de-har-snabbast-4g [www.idg.se]
  • I wonder how the companies with these ridiculous caps will promote the next technology... "blaze through your data cap in no time with our new technology..." I always argued that data caps would become a problem, and made room for companies to put users in a tight spot and charge them more money... now its going to start to show as things progress from here. I still believe that any company promoting high speeds with data caps should be regulated and forced to follow strict pricing guidelines.. of course t
    • I wonder how the companies with these ridiculous caps will promote the next technology... "blaze through your data cap in no time with our new technology..." I always argued that data caps would become a problem, and made room for companies to put users in a tight spot and charge them more money... now its going to start to show as things progress from here. I still believe that any company promoting high speeds with data caps should be regulated and forced to follow strict pricing guidelines.. of course that will never happen... if you cant support a network at speeds you claim uncapped, or at least more reasonably, then you just shouldn't offer it.

      I hear ya... I believe that the companies will simply state that there *is no data cap*, then limit the speeds accordingly - Here's my view of the future (lol) --

      Rando: "Why is my speed so slow? I have 4G and it's unlimited." --
      Wireless PHO (pointy-haired operator): "Ma'am, you do have unlimited 4G, I see that.. It looks like you may be in an area with a lot of interference and that is probably limiting your speed. You may want to talk with the power company, the water company, the city, the electric co

  • AT&T has said the average user of its home DSL system consumes 18GB per month. At current rates, that would run $180/month for LTE wireless service.

    AT&T phone and DSL is on average $90/month. So you get two times the cost, the same amount of usage, used in a fraction of the time. Awesome! Cant wait to dodge that deal.

  • Downloads over the AT&T network averaged about 24Mbps and peaked at 42.85Mbps, the fastest cellular connection seen to date.

    The first mention I found of an actual download speed for the LTE network in Stockholm [computerworld.com] (you know, the world's first publicly available LTE-service) beats that figure easily, peaking at 59.1 Mb/s. That is a measurement from over a year ago.

  • Thank God I'm grandfathered into unlimited... Otherwise, what a waste.

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