The Big Four Carriers go at it on 4G/LTE and 3G Data Speeds

It's that time of year when the BIG FOUR - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile - get their data speeds tested against each other to determine just which one gets crowned the fastest.  The problem with testing speeds is that they can vary greatly from city to city, so if you are hell-bent on getting the fastest upload and download speeds, the carrier you chose could be dependent on where you live.  OpenSignal's study looks at data from 1 million consumer devices from 20 metropolitan areas: New York - Los Angeles - Chicago - Washington DC - San Francisco - Boston - Philadelphia - Dallas - Miami - Houston - Atlanta - Detroit - Seattle - Phoenix - Minneapolis - Cleveland - Denver - San Diego - Portland - and Orlando.

Let's first look at the 4G speed comparisons - but keep in mind that their study of 4G speeds includes BOTH LTE and HSPA+...with those two in tandem, T-Mobile is now the fastest network in all twenty cities by quite a large margin.  While Verizon Wireless and AT&T have a much larger coverage area, they do not come close to matching T-Mobile's speed, as well as the slowest of all, Sprint.

3G is still important as 4G LTE passes off to 3G as 4G coverage can vary, especially if you are on the move.  In this area Verizon, again, looks bad, but that is skewed by the fact that Verizon has so much 4G LTE coverage that 3G is less important, so we must be careful when interpreting the results.  In these 20 cities, T-Mobile and AT&T ranked the highest in 3G speeds.

Latency comparison is another area of importance, especially when it comes to surfing the web.  4G latency speeds are much faster and noticeably better than 3G latency, which is about 60-percent slower than 4G.  Pages load faster and there will be less lag in gaming over the internet.  In this category, it is pretty much the same rankings - Sprint is the slowest, followed by Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T coming out on top.

The last area is the coverage area - here, Verizon Wireless is the reigning king of coverage...its 4G coverage is 100-percent LTE.  Their LTE covers 97-percent of their 3G network and that covers 97-percent of all Americans.  AT&T comes in second to nationwide coverage as they quickly expand their LTE coverage to cover 300 million Americans, as Sprint and T-Mobile are a distant third and fourth respectively.  This is especially important if you travel.

So there are many conclusions to this study and no carrier selection should be taken lightly - it all depends where you live, if you travel, whether you want strictly LTE coverage or are okay with the slower HSPA+ standard.  In some markets, regional carriers, such as Cricket, actually give better coverage than the major carriers do.  New York City and San Francisco are some of the most congested metropolitan areas and thus, the slowest 4G speeds.  Make sure that you do your homework to get the best coverage and speeds in your area.  Please hit us up on Google+ Page and let us know where you live, which carrier you use and how your coverage of 3G and 4G always, we would love to hear from you.

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About the Author

Cory McNutt

Senior Staff Writer
Cory has written for Androidheadlines since 2013 and is a Senior Writer for the site. Cory has a background in Accounting and Finance and worked for the FBI in the past. From there he pursued his Masters in English Literature. Cory loves Android and Google related technology and specializes in Smartphone Comparisons on our site. Contact him at [email protected]
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