New nationwide test shows AT&T LTE network is fastest, Verizon is most reliable

By , Jun 18, 2013

AT&T Chicago store (interior 001)

Here in the US, we’re fortunate to have a wide selection of wireless providers with LTE networks. Where many countries have none, or just one, all four of our top carriers, and several regional carriers have deployed the technology nationwide.

But with choice comes decisions—you have to decide which LTE provider to go with. Luckily, the folks over at PC Mag have driven over 20,000 miles across the United States testing the country’s top four carriers to help you make that decision…

Before we get to the results of their testing, let’s take a look at their preparation. The site says that it sent three Ford hybrid-electric cars on a road trip across the US packed with eight Samsung phones, each attached to one of the top four carriers.

“This year, we upgraded our testing to be more consistent and more realistic. We put three Ford hybrid-electric cars on the road (for more, see “It’s Electric! Driving Ford’s High-Tech Cars”), each packed with eight identical Samsung phones to test the four major carriers’ networks: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. A new testing tool from Sensorly let us grab new measurements, like the all-important “time to first byte” which tells you how long it takes for a Web page to start to appear.”

Where did they test? The 3 Ford cars traveled to 30 different cities spread across all 6 regions of the US. Every city had both AT&T and Verizon LTE networks, and they also tested 24 of Sprint’s 110 LTE markets, and 6 of T-Mobile’s 7 LTE markets.

And now for the results:

att pcmag results

PC Mag found AT&T’s LTE network to be, on average, the fastest overall in its 30 test cities. In its first truly fair fight between LTE networks, the site found AT&T came through with faster upload and download speeds overall than Verizon Wireless.

But while AT&T’S LTE network proved faster than Verizon’s, Big Red was once again named the most reliable. The carrier had nearly a year head start in the LTE game over AT&T, and it currently covers twice as many markets. So no real surprise here.

“Verizon Wireless, as always, is the master of coverage and reliability. It’s the only truly nationwide LTE network and it generally aced our streaming and Web page download reliability tests. While its LTE network is generally a bit slower than AT&T’s, it’s still fast, and the carrier wins our Reader’s Choice awards year after year for its coverage area and general customer satisfaction levels.”

For more results, and details on how they conducted their tests, I recommend reading PC Mag’s entire report. It’s cool stuff, but I’m more interested in what these numbers will look like next year, once T-Mobile and Sprint have had the chance to catch up.

As it stands, Verizon’s LTE network is in about 500 markets around the US. AT&T is in a distant second, with roughly 280 markets. And Sprint, who just added 22 new cities yesterday, is in 119 markets. Then T-Mobile, of course, only has about 10 right now.

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  • Ian Jackson

    I’m not sure who I’m going to sign a new contract with, or just skip it and go with T-Mo. I want to get the Note 3 (I’m not up for it til March so we’ll most likely see it long after. I keep thinking about this when you guys post these type of things. Who are you guys happy with? I’m currently with Sprint and hating their 3G speeds.

    • Gorgonphone

      tmo will be a great option in the future

    • Jack Wong

      The LTE just have to work in my office and home then I am happy.

      I am with at&t.

  • Tom

    Att smokes the competion i always new att was king

    • Gorgonphone

      true and thats why at&t iPhones have the highest resale value

  • James

    this is news?

    • Gorgonphone

      lol nope.. but it fills space nicely..

  • Bigchamp

    Well it would make sense AT&T’s LTE network is faster because verizon has a lot more people using their network. Almost 60% of all verizon data is over 4G LTE. I would like to see the percentage for AT&T. The more people on a network the slower it gets!

    • ElementalXTC

      Yeah but if they tested the same market, the amount of users wouldn’t matter. The biggest differentiator would be the amount of phones that use the network. And since att’s network network backs up to HSPA+ and not 3G, they would still see faster service

    • Jack Wong

      Which mean Verizon has more money to invest more bandwidth but they don’t… how sad.

  • Gorgonphone

    yup and at&t is still best choice fro iPhone users since Verizon and sprint still don’t off simultaneous voice and data on iphone5 lol

  • Mastawee

    Don’t know how reliability is calculated in these tests as the 500k stream reliability att best verizon. Verizon has more cities and yet their LTE is spotty in the cities I go to. How is this reliable?

    • Raul Henriquez

      bs

  • Rick Hart

    I choose Verizon for the reliability! Grandfathered unlimited data!!

  • Jay

    I have had sprint for 9 years and I hatem like bad food..I had At@T for a short period and yes Speeds where just mind blowing but their custumer service is The worse on the planet so i cancelled them Quik..Verizon iz KING…Speed!!And better prices and Excellent Custumer Service..BIG RED Fo Eva!!