4G Wireless Speed Tests- Which Is Really the Fastest- - PCWorld

They say "talk is cheap" - and these days it seems like every major US wireless carrier is claiming to have the fastest 4G (of course 4G is a highly debatable marketing term that describes three vastly different networks, but that's fodder for another post altogether). It's relatively easy to tune all of the marketing hype out but, when presented with some solid numbers, it gets easier to pay attention. PC World has tried to give us some raw data to work with in their profiling of the data speeds on the four major providers.

There are, however, a couple of very important things to keep in mind before viewing these results:

  1. PC World measured the best service they could get (whether 3G or 4G) over 260 locations in 13 cities. So the prevalence of 4G is just as important as the speed in determining these averages.
  2. Unless PC World got their hands on a pre-release of the Thunderbolt (it was not specified in the source), they would not have even had an LTE-capable Verizon phone to test with (this could explain Big Red's poor showing below)

With that said, you can see in the results below that T-Mobile came out on top in the smartphone category, averaging 2.28 mbps download and 0.95 mbps on the upstream.

4G Wireless Speed Tests- Which Is Really the Fastest- - PCWorld

With today's confirmation that the Thunderbolt will be arriving later this week, perhaps the following test of laptop modems will offer a more accurate preview of what Verizon's LTE network will yield (if so then I'll consider the wait worth it and line up for a Thunderbolt):

4G Wireless Speed Tests- Which Is Really the Fastest- - PCWorld2

We would advise you to take these results with many grains of salt. "4G" networks are a work in progress which have only rolled out in select markets, and results will vary wildly based on location. For example, in Chicago I usually average about 4-7 mbps download and 1.2 mbps upload on Sprint's WiMax network - this differs radically from PC World's findings. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how one study stacks up. We will look forward to seeing a similar survey next year (when networks are more complete and Verizon actually has some LTE phones on the market).

Source: PC World via Business Wire

Will Shanklin
Will's typical, run-of-the-mill story is that of 'classically-trained actor turned Android smartphone and tablet writer.' If you catch him quoting Shakespeare, it's not because he misses it, but because he desperately wants his Masters in drama to count towards something.

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trusty cur, Ziggy.
  • ari-free

    Obviously Verizon is way faster with lowest latency. They need the thunderbolt more than anything.

    • Coldman

      That's not entirely true, especially for phones, as you can see above. It all depends on the area more than anything.

  • Kevin

    Just got 2.23 and .83 on my verizon motorola droid in Devine Tx :-)

  • Jaymoon

    While I don't doubt these numbers, nor am I trying to say this study is worthless, there are regional factors at hand.

    Where speeds are fast in one area on a specific carrier, may be a totally different story on the other side of the country.

    13 cities is nice, but far from a realistic perspective of the country as a whole. If you live in L.A., S.F., Chicago, Miami, etc.... great! These number could be of some use to your carrier-choosing decision. For people living outside of the areas tested, the same advice still sticks: Try the carrier before you sign the contract if this is a concern. Gauge feedback and how well a network is from friends/family/co-workers/strangers beforehand. Most carriers offer a 30-day refund period.

    I shudder in my seat thinking about the people who will look at the first graphic, and say themselves "I knew it, T-Mobile is the fastest, screw everyone else!". Or even the target audience of PC World that doesn't know the difference between a Megabit and a Megabyte.

  • bourne

    no Canadian carriers :(

  • http://www.wix.com/Gigitsu/Gigitsu/Home GigiAUT

    Is it possible they used a different phone on each network rather than a control phone to measure all?

  • Asphyx

    While Speed is the new marketing buzzword in wireless the truth is making a decision based on speed and not coverage is really a bad move.

    And these speed tests should really take into account coverage and count all those 0k locations and factor them into the results.

    I know it is impossible to really do coverage surveys cause the logistics of it really are impossible but the truth is what good would OC12 speeds be if they only show up in one location in the country?

    The phones can hardly utilize those speeds in any meaningful way and the only result is better video streaming which maybe the most bandwidth intensive data any phone will attempt to use.

    Makes some sense in regards to 3g Hotspot tethering but my guess is less than 1% of 1% actually use it in a multiple user enviornment where the increased speeds really make a difference.

    Nice to have but it isn't the most important aspect to be focused on.

  • Inspektor Gadget

    ari-free you are an idiot! Verizon is actually THE SLOWEST o the smart phone results above. They are the fastest on the LAPTOP DATA MODEM results.....but.....we all have smart phones. I bet your whole life is one big cluster fluk.

  • AT&Tguy

    Inspektor Gadget hate to say it but your in the wrong here the speed tests for smart phones where done using a 3G only phone. While Verzion's 3g sucks their 4g network (tested with laptop modems) is hands down faster then anyone out there. Please read and understand the technology and specs of a test before commenting.

  • Joshp406

    I swear, this is the most T-mo and Verizon biased test ever