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  (Source: funnyfailpics.com)
T-Mobile USA had the best 3G, Verizon/AT&T split the 4G crown

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) wound up the top dud in PC World's second annual nationwide phone network speed test.  The carrier finished the 2012 test in the same place that it finished in 2011 -- last.  The nation's only unlimited network is also the nation's most abysmal network in terms of speed.  In 3G and 4G tests across 13 cities, Sprint proved to be as much as 6 times as slow as it next nearest competitors.

Sprint's 3G data speeds actually got slower in 2012 -- the only carrier to do so.  Sprint's WiMAX 4G was so slow it was beat by T-Mobile's 3G network.  Sprint charges customers $10 extra for that "4G" service.

The test employed a variety of each carrier's top phones.  For instant, on Sprint the Galaxy S II from Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930) and the Marquee by LG Electronics Inc. (KS:066570).

AT&T Inc. (T) shown in the 3G tests on merits of its HSPA+ network, which nearly doubled in speed since last year.  While AT&T markets this 3G network as 4G, that's just an advertising gimmick.  From a standards perspective, PC World is correct in labelling it 3G.  AT&T itself once said that branding HSPA+ "4G" was intended to deceive customers, only to later jump on the bandwagon.

But deception or not, AT&T's HSPA+ is good news for customers, and T-Mobile USA's (a subsidiary of German phone giant Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE)) super-charged HSPA+ network is even better news.

T-Mobile's terrific HSPA+ network secured it a decisive first place win in 3G testing.  T-Mobile devices averaged 3.84 Mbps down and 1.44 Mbps up.  Verizon Wireless -- a join venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD) -- was not very far ahead of Sprint, showcasing very poor 3G data speeds.

3G/4G speeds
AT&T and T-Mobile were the biggest winners, Sprint the biggest loser in PC World's big speed test. [Image Source: PC World]

In (true) 4G, though, Verizon Wireless has the nation's largest LTE network (covers ~200M+ Americans).  The company narrowly beat AT&T in uplink speed average 5.86 Mbps versus AT&T's 4.91 Mbps.  However, despite its strong speeds and strong performance Verizon Wireless's 4G devices are reportedly suffering from a problem of 3G fallback -- given that Verizon's 3G (CDMA) network is so much slower than its 4G network.

By contrast, AT&T won the downlink LTE test (9.12 Mbps vs. 7.35 Mbps from Verizon), and also won PC World's honors for best LTE carrier.  While the testers took issue with AT&T's coverage, which is still relatively small (~70 million Americans), they praise AT&T's pairing of HSPA+ and LTE, which allows for smoother handoffs when the faster 4G signal cuts out.  They suggested that videos or other streaming content may stutter on Verizon when they lose 4G, but will continue to play smoothly on AT&T.

Overall the tests indicate AT&T and T-Mobile to be the best choices from a data perspective, with Verizon getting small honors for its wide LTE coverage and fast data speeds for LTE.  Sprint was the only wholesale loser -- its 3G was the slowest out there and its 4G WiMAX was slower than AT&T and T-Mobile's HSPA+ advanced 3G.

Source: PCWorld



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RE: I can vouch for this
By Adam M on 4/18/2012 5:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'm in the same boat. I got the EVO 4G in 2010. Denver was one of their first WIMAX cities but they were slow to roll it out to the greater metro area. I moved to a new apartment in November where I topped out at about 9 Mbps. A week later the were doing "improvements" in my area which lasted into March, during which I had no 4g and the 3g was horrid. I am teetering between paying the EFT and flashing to Boost or Cricket and getting WIFI at home OR staying with Sprint for the EVO LTE with the hopes that they roll out LTE in Denver. The speeds would have to be amazing. Unlimited crap is still just crap.


RE: I can vouch for this
By mcnabney on 4/19/2012 9:31:56 AM , Rating: 2
What do you think causes the slow speeds on Sprint? As long as they are unlimited you can expect slow speeds. People think that tiered billing / paying for GBs is just to enrich the provider. The real reason is to prevent heavy users that are constantly downloading (bittorrent) from bleeding the speed from all users. Oh, and the carrier does get a little more money, but ultimately that isn't the purpose. Controlling the hogs maintain service for all.


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