When it comes to 4G, you certainly have plenty of choices. All of the big four wireless carriers — Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T — have their own 4G networks, but the real question is: which one is the fastest?
T-Mobile and AT&T both use HSPA+, Sprint’s network is WiMAX, and Verizon’s is LTE, so to get to the bottom of which technology is best, Laptop Magazine recently put them through some rigorous tests. The results could not have been clearer.
This series of tests was conducted in three locations within five major cities across the country: Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Orlando, and San Francisco. The tests for each carrier’s network consisted of measuring upload and download speeds (in both real-world and synthetic scenarios) as well as how quickly it loaded websites. The tests were conducted 10 times on all of the networks’ 4G products — phones, USB modems, and mobile hotspots — with final results being averaged.
The synthetic test of choice for measuring upload and download speeds was Speedtest.net and by the end, Verizon’s LTE network came out on top by a country mile, with a whopping 12.31 Mbps download speed and a 4.71 Mbps upload speed. T-Mobile came in a distant second with 4.72 Mbps download and 1.42 Mbps upload, and Sprint came in third while AT&T brought up the rear.
But when it came to real world tests, the disparity was not nearly as vast, and the numbers were not nearly as high. Using a 155 MB file (OpenOffice.org) for download and a 6.7 MB Handbrake file for upload (both from and to Laptop’s FTP server), Verizon still came in first, but not by nearly as much with a download speed of 4.4 Mbps and an upload speed of 1.67 Mbps. T-Mobile came in a much closer second with 3.05 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, and Sprint and AT&T finished once again in third and fourth place, respectively.
Verizon’s LTE network continued to reign supreme when it came time to measure website loading times, with Big Red clocking in at 10.18 seconds on the Site Load Time test. Though it may seem negligible, the difference between that time and T-Mobile’s 12.59 seconds was relatively substantial, with the gap widening all the way to AT&T’s last place 16.62 seconds.
The numbers don’t lie: of all of the 4G networks, none of them hold a candle to LTE. In light of these results, as Laptop pointed out, it makes sense that AT&T and Sprint are eventually switching their 4G networks to LTE, or the “superior technology.” What is also true, however, is that you get what you pay for. T-Mobile may be slower than Verizon, but it also costs $20 less per month to go with their HSPA+ over LTE, and coverage is generally better. And if you’re willing to sacrifice speed for unlimited data plans, there’s always Sprint.
As for AT&T, well…perhaps people should just wait until it adopts LTE later this summer.