An independent test conducted by a research firm in New York City comparing the speeds of Verizon's and Sprint's respective 4G networks has made at least one thing clear: Big Red owns the Big Apple. After conducting over 1000 individual network speed tests in various locations throughout the city, BTIG Research tallied up the averages, and it's not a pretty picture for Sprint:


The connections were tethered through an HTC Thunderbolt and an HTC EVO 4G, respectively

You're seeing that right - Verizon's 4G LTE is averaging a whopping 10.3Mbps (down) when on a laptop tethered to an HTC Thunderbolt, while the EVO 4G barely eeks out 1.6. The difference becomes even more apparent when comparing the network's speeds while tethering an iPad 2. It would appear the cat's out of the bag, and Sprint should rightly be embarrassed.

Now, this is all bound to lead to a lot of Sprint WiMAX success stories in the comments, so let's be clear - this really only applies specifically to the NYC area, though the researchers did mention that these results were generally representative of their experiences across the US. On the flipside, I've heard good things about Sprint's WiMAX coverage in Los Angeles, so take that with a grain of salt. Still, NYC makes for a true network torture test zone, one Sprint should be working fastidiously to cover.


So what didn't this study do? It didn't compare network latency (which is a pretty key factor in real-world "snappiness"), and it didn't compare speeds during peak traffic hours, the latter of which is of paramount concern when you live in a densely populated urban area. LTE has a massive advantage over older 3G technologies in both of those arenas, so it'd be interesting to see how WiMAX stacks up.

Either way, this isn't great news for Sprint, especially as the T-Mobile / AT&T merger will lead to yet another LTE competitor coming into the market, isolating Sprint's choice of WiMAX like the awkward kid at the 4G prom. Sprint's CEO Dan Hesse has repeatedly affirmed the carrier's commitment to WiMAX, but Sprint has never ruled out adopting a second 4G tech - something that seems very likely at this point.

BTIG notes that Clearwire is refusing to expand its WiMAX network or make any other 4G-related capital investments until it reaches a new agreement with Sprint, a deal that is still under negotiation, putting the brakes on Sprint's 4G-ification efforts.

Of even more interest, though, is the pilot LTE network Clearwire is currently testing in Phoenix, AZ. Could Sprint and Clearwire continue their partnership with a focus on building out both LTE and WiMAX networks simultaneously? It's certainly possible, but this could have undesirable consequences for customers, as Sprint's upcoming 4G devices support only the WiMAX standard.

Such a decision would also beg the question "why?" There seems to be little benefit to consumers in developing two 4G networks at the same time, likely at the detriment of the expansion of both. Why not focus on a single solution? Sprint clearly has some tough questions to face regarding its 4G strategy, questions Dan Hesse has pledged to answer in the coming months.

But for now, it would seem Verizon has quickly become king of the 4G hill.

BTIG via Phandroid

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • John A

    It's just to bad that Verzion is a ripoff compared to sprint...otherwise I would have brought my services to Verzion a long time ago

    • Kane

      Define rip-off. For now, data is unlimited and if you get great LTE service + great 3G service vs spotty 4G + crappy 3G, paying more is only fair.

      • tony s.

        Before you go tooting your own horn I'm a nuclear power worker and travel nation wide I just recently left Sprint for Verizon and got the thunderbolt and let's just say Verizon cell service is shitty there is no doubt when I had 4g service it was fast way faster than Sprint wimax but after a couple weeks with spotty coverage and twice as many dropped call I went back to Sprint and I must say quality service over an over priced network equals priceless o by the way I went back to the evo 4g

        • cmon son

          Punctuate much?

      • John A

        Not to mention data is only unlimited "for now" Verzion has future plans to cap there data plans. I have 4 smart phones all with 4G service. I have unlimited calling to any mobile phone on any network, as well as 1500 minutes to call landline phones. Unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited data, text and mms, and full insurance on all 4 lines. My bill after taxes is $238. Verzion cant even come close to that

      • JJ

        Define rip off? How about this: to have the iphone on verizon with unlimited data and unlimited text, 450 minutes,navigation, mobile to mobile only to verizon customers it will cost me around $100 a month before taxes. To have an evo on sprint with the same things plus unlimited calling to any cellphone and free sprint tv it will cost me around $80 before tax. Thats at least $20 lower a month. So it might not be a rip off but its enough to not make me switch to verizon. Oh and I forgot, Verizon will throttle your speed after 5gigs.

    • ari-free

      wimax is a ripoff. Not even usable indoors.

      • JJ

        How is wimax a ripoff? It is cheaper than LTE not to mention that verizon will throttle you once you hit 5gigs. Either way its not going to matter since sprint is going to be using both wimax and lte in the near future. Also the evo is one of the best selling phones out right now and the thunderbolt has been out for only couple weeks. There are more people using wimax than lte. Anyway who cares, sprint prices are still cheaper than verizon. Thats what matters to me. Its not like the difference in speeds is going to hurt anyone.

  • Jesse

    Why didn't they test using the same machines? I'm on T-mobile, so I don't really care which CDMA carrier wins, but it only seems right to run a network comparison test on identical equipment. I understand not having the same phones, but surely they could have used the same laptop.

    • David Ruddock

      Er, that's not possible, the two carriers' networks aren't compatible. And it seems clear that any margin of error owing to hardware difference wouldn't make much of a difference here.

      • Jesse

        I'm sorry. I assumed the laptop tests used a USB dongle rather than a built in radio.

  • annoynamous


  • maglito

    You might consider the uptime of both networks and how much time they've had to add subscribers. I think it's very likely the verizon network in NYC isn't very loaded up with subscribers yet and thus has all that free availible bandwidth. I got similar results on the chicago sprint wimax network before it got loaded up with subscribers.

  • http://www.segabits.com AngelComa

    What? I get 10-12mbps mostly on Sprint.

    • Nate

      yeah...my sprint is that fast, too. the speeds in this test are like my normal 3g speeds...

      • TA

        Yeah, just fired up Speakeasy.net on my Evo and got 1.5 down, .44 up. On 3G. So while I do expect Verizon's LTE network is probably faster than Sprint's WiMAX network, this is just incorrect and dishonest misinformation.

        • JoshL

          Why are you people surprised that an actual 4G service is better than a pretend one? WiMax is crap, which is why Sprint is ditching it for LTE. You fanboys are ridiculous.

        • Nate

          Sure LTE is better than WiMAX, but WiMAX isn't as bad as this study shows. It was only tested in one location. I'm not a fanboy, but this is definately skewed. I would much rather have LTE, as that's what they have in Europe and it's about twice as fast as Verizon's LTE...

  • Jon

    lets see, the evo has been on sale for almost a year and was one of the most popular phones of the year, and there are other 4g phones on sprint. The Thunderbolt has been out a couple of weeks and is the only 4g phone on Verizon. Of course the Thunderbolt will do better, there is no load on the network.

  • Richard Yarrell

    Pretty normal VERIZON TROLLS HERE they only show up when something is MIS-ADVERTISED about VERIZON SUCH AS THIS.Regardless of what people feel about wimax I have been a Htc Evo 4g owner since June 4th 2010 and I am happy about my consistent 7/8up and 3/4/down on 4g what more real speed is needed???.. Sprint will eventually change to LTE within the next 2 years and there wimax will be backhauled into LTE no problem. But to falsely bring down another service is all verizon does well they FASLE ADVERTISE EVERYTHING...WHO IS BTIG ANYWAY someone Verizon paid to discredit wimax or sprint???Great try regardless of anything none of the devices on Verizon is worth having they are all last years specs except the Droid Bionic and even that device regardless of there dualcore is going to operating on 512 mb of ram which is on every device from 2010...The Thunderbolt only runs 768 mb's of ram they have nothing that will compete with sprint...The droid Charge is a last year specs of a device...the Droid X2 will probably be a dualcore 3g device the Incredible 2 another 3g device but a nice world phone. What are they hanging there hat on this so called tegra later this year or 2012?? Sprint's entire lineup 2011 make verizon look like WELFARE DEVICES..The HTC EVO 3D BITCH SLAPS EVERY DEVICE VERIZON WILL EVER HAVE..If your on sprint don't worry about this misleading GARBAGE

  • Ali

    well we've to see what throughput testing method has been used .. theoretically both LTE and WiMAX have same downlink throughput as both of them use OFDMA in DL.

  • David

    Also consider that there are over 500,000 4G phones working on Sprint at the moment, and maybe 50,000 on Verizon. There may be 10 times as many people running on the network in NYC on Sprint than on Verizon while the tests are running, and you have to think that the more phones gobbling up bandwidth will at some point, slow down others using that same network. Once Verizon gets as many phones running on LTE as Sprint does on WiMax, then you can do a comparable test. Right now, there is most likely a differential they didn't account for.

  • WirelessFreak

    I'm a wireless engineer that used to design and test the gamut of wireless systems (devices and networks) for a MAJOR mobile network testing company. So I know a thing or two about this stuff. So let's clear some thing up about this article.
    1st, I knew practically all our major competitors, and I've never heard of BTIG Research. That is, as far as the major North American carriers go, this wasn't one of the "standards of measurement" they used.
    2nd, I love Verizon... don't get me wrong. I know for a fact that they run one of the most reliable and well performing networks in the continent (not in EVERY location, and not for EVERY person, but using millions and millions of data points throughout the nation, they were almost always on top).
    3rd... these results are flat out bogus. Any credible engineer, and certainly any credible mobile engineer, could debunk all sorts of things with their tests and methodologies, in addition to debunking the reporting claims (as already stated, the obvious one being network load).

    That's not to say they didn't achieve these results... but the validity of the test setup can easily be questioned. I could certainly go to New York right now, set up another 10 tests and skew the numbers towards Sprint just by picking sites that unfairly favored them over Verizon. And to believe test results that depict a true 4G network as no better than a current 3G network without asking why or how? When you fully well know that most people currently using said network are giddy over the improved performance compared to their old network? That's just poor engineering. If you know the numbers are way off, then you need to explain why and prove that the numbers are real.

    Laugh this off as a pathetic attempt to make a name for themselves or as a bad marketing scam. As I said, I love Verizon, and I get frustrated with Sprint's obvious "2nd place" status (as far as U.S. CDMA carriers go) cuz I'm a Sprint customer, but I'd switch back to Verizon in a heartbeat if their rate plans were better... but this article is so ridiculous it makes me cringe.