updated 04:50 pm EST, Mon November 22, 2010
ATT-backed study gives it edge in speed and calls
AT&T today claimed to have an edge in cellular performance through a study that gave it the lead in wireless speed. The US-wide test, reportedly conducted independently by Global Wireless Solutions, put an unnamed "nearest competitor" 20 percent slower on a national average. Its larger rival, Verizon, was 60 percent slower on average.
The company further disputed its reputation for frequent dropped calls and claimed that 98.59 percent of AT&T voice calls completed properly. Only one in 1,000 calls dropped, it said.
Most of the speed advantage came from the inherent nature of the network versus its rivals. AT&T currently has 7.2Mbps HSPA for 3G on its network, which while rarely reaching its theoretical maximum is faster than the EVDO Revision A on Sprint, Verizon and most other CDMA carriers. WiMAX gives Sprint a performance edge through its 3-6Mbps average speeds, but its limited coverage of less than 60 markets would lower Sprint's average.
The presence of HSPA+ in a small number of cities helped AT&T offset both Sprint as well as its main GSM rival T-Mobile, which launched HSPA+ before AT&T. Both networks use the standard 21Mbps version of the improved 3G spec. Most improvements at rivals will wait until LTE, a 4G-level standard that is in use at MetroPCS today, should reach Verizon in December, and is due to arrive at AT&T and T-Mobile alike in 2011.
Questions nonetheless persist about the study. AT&T has declined to provide a breakdown by city or region that might highlight weaknesses. Customers in key cities, especially New York City and the cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, have complained of much higher dropped call rates and slow data rates than in the rest of the US. AT&T has been actively upgrading its network, but the issues haven't been seen in significant form at competitors despite Android users consuming more on Verizon than iPhone users at AT&T.
The provider has also acknowledged that GWS, while not attached to AT&T, is paid to test its network for evaluation and to help determine which areas need capacity upgrades.