By Stephen Schenck | March 15, 2011 2:19 AM
With all the factors that weigh into smartphone performance, it can be maddening trying to determine which provider offers the highest-throughput data network. Available bandwidth varies regionally, by time of day, and in the face of network maintenance. PCWorld and Novarum decided to evaluate the current condition of wireless data in the United States, and after 177,000 measurements, they finally have some results to show, putting T-Mobile and its HSPA+ network up against Verizon’s LTE for the top spot.
The tests looked both at 4G data modems for laptops, as well as some of the fastest-connecting smartphones for Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon (obviously, with the Thunderbolt still waiting in the wings, there was no Verizon LTE smartphone to evaluate). We’re mainly concerned with smartphone performance, which pitted the iPhone 4, Evo 4G, G2, and Droid 2 up against each other. While none of the smartphones consistently measured up to the performance of stand-alone data modems, T-Mobile and Sprint showed some of the highest speeds, though T-Mobile was much more consistent in reaching top performance levels. On a whole, Sprint’s WiMAX figures are disappointing, only cracking the 3Mbps barrier in New York City, and not even breaking 1Mbps in four cities.
Both T-Mobile and AT&T had the best upload speeds, floating around the 1Mbps mark, though AT&T’s average boasts a slight edge. Again, New York’s network claims some of the top speeds nationwide, with T-Mobile setting the upload high-water mark at a 1.56Mbps average.
The tricky thing about this analysis is how to read the Verizon LTE data. If we’re to extrapolate wireless modem performance to smartphones, Verizon should blow everyone else out of the water. The problem, though, is that the network stress from smartphones is bound to exceed the current demand made by these PC modems, which could cause average speeds to plummet. We’ll just have to wait a week or two to see how the Thunderbolt does before we can make that judgement.