updated 04:20 pm EDT, Mon March 14, 2011
Verizon, T-Mobile lead 4G and fast 3G tests
Verizon is by far in front in raw mobile data tests in the US, a new benchmark concluded on Sunday. Its use of real, LTE-based 4G gave it average modem speeds of about 6.44Mbps in PCWorld tests, or more than twice as fast as the 2.83Mbps for a T-Mobile HSPA+ modem. The upload speed edge was wider still and reached a very fast 5Mbps while AT&T had just 1.05Mbps.
That lead didn't extend to smartphones, however. Without any of its 4G smartphones from CES on the market, such as the HTC Thunderbolt, Verizon was almost always the slowest. T-Mobile's HSPA+ 3G network and fast phones like the G2 or myTouch 4G made it the fastest, often cresting over 2Mbps downstream and often outperforming AT&T in uploads.
Sprint's WiMAX wasn't necessarily faster than AT&T's 3G, since an iPhone 4 on AT&T's 7.2Mbps network was sometimes faster in downloads than an HTC Evo 4G, uploads or both, even in areas like San Francisco where AT&T's network has historically been poor. A lack of WiMAX coverage was also an issue for Sprint in cities like New Orleans or San Diego.
The landscape for the tests is expected to change rapidly in the next few months. Verizon should have multiple promised 4G phones available finally on the market. AT&T is already starting to roll out 14.4Mbps phones like the HTC Inspire 4G and should have more later. T-Mobile will get faster through the 21Mbps Galaxy S 4G.
Differences in performance also illustrated the increasing problems with carriers calling their services 4G. Although the ITU recently let carriers call their networks with any major jump in performance, T-Mobile's service is ultimately just faster 3G where Sprint's network is often similar or slightly slower. The ITU was originally criticized for very strict requirements that would even have excluded Verizon's LTE from the 4G definition, although its network is much closer to the original definition.