We may be waiting for Congress to persuade America’s cellular carriers to start providing all sorts of details about their mobile offerings to help the average smartphone user choose the network that’s best for him or her, but in the meantime, independent companies are more than happy to do their own investigations and paint us a picture of the current state of wireless data in the US. The latest to lay a path across the nation and subject wireless networks to a barrage of tests is PC Magazine, which sought to find the fastest, most reliable service option out there.
The tests examined data performance on AT&T, T-Mobile, MetroPCS LTE, Sprint (3G and WiMAX), Verizon (3G and LTE), and Cricket. For each network, they chose Androids with comparable feature sets (though Cricket’s best Android option topped-out at 600MHz), all running Froyo. They then ran diagnostic software to evaluate HTTP uploads, downloads, and UDP downloads, to check for speed and connection reliability, driving all around major market areas, and hitting up as many as possible with at least some type of 4G network.
After testing in 21 markets, as well as in rural areas, there’s a lot data to process. If you happen to live in one of those markets, you should definitely check out PC Mag’s detailed notes, available for each one it tested. While you could further analyze the data by grouping these markets into regions of the country, there’s little need to, since the results are mostly consistent.
For the fastest data, the winner is – no surprise – Verizon LTE, averaging 9.46Mbps down and 1.35 up. T-Mobile put in an impressive showing, with average download scores beating even Sprint’s WiMAX in some cases. While AT&T hung back behind T-Mobile for pure speed, the reach of its network gave it an advantage in rural areas. Of course, all this will change as the carriers upgrade their networks, put up new towers, and strive to reach more customers than ever.