AT&T’s LTE is the fastest, Verizon rules coverage

AT&T Chicago store (interior 001)

Aren’t you sick and tired of top U.S. carriers advertising their 4G LTE service as the nation’s fastest and most reliable? This mostly false advertising has been ticking me off for quite some time, especially how T-Mobile promotes its 3G HSPA+ network as 4G. Time for a reality check.

Research firm Rootmetrics yesterday published the results of its survey of U.S. carriers and their fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks. Surprisingly or not, AT&T’s LTE came on top as the fastest, but rival Verizon grabbed the title of the nation’s best LTE coverage. More tidbits right after the break..

Per Rootmetrics data, AT&T registered average LTE download speeds of 18.6Mbps, with uploads hitting the 9Mbps mark. As for the maximum speeds, AT&T’s LTE registered a speedy 57.7Mbps in downlink and an impressive 19.6Mbps in uplink.

Furthermore, AT&T’s LTE network had a connection rate of an impressive 81.7 percent. Verizon slightly trails AT&T, with average LTE speeds clocking in at 14.3Mbps downlink and 8.5Mbps uplink.

Maximum Verizon LTE speeds: 49.3Mbps downlink and 19.7Mbps uplink.

Rootmetrics LTE speeds (ATT)

Sprint’s LTE download speed is rated at 10.3Mbps, with 4.4Mbps in upload.

Rootmetrics LTE speeds (Sprint)

Rootmetrics explains:

AT&T offers the fastest pure LTE speeds, outpacing Verizon for both download and upload. And their non-LTE speeds were faster than those of any carrier except T-Mobile. AT&T continues to trail Verizon, though, when comparing LTE footprints.

Verizon’s biggest advantage is the comprehensiveness of its LTE network, scoring the most LTE coverage of any network Rootmetrics has tested. The firm said it successfully connected to Verizon’s LTE network nine out of ten times.

Rootmetrics LTE speeds (Verizon)

“This advantage holds whether we look at total number of markets covered in our tests, or when we compare the likelihood of accessing LTE within markets,” researchers note.

Verizon’s 3G CDMA technology is slower than rival’s non-LTE solutions, but the carrier makes up for that with LTE availability. AT&T claims 135 LTE markets, Verizon 475 and 58 LTE markets claimed by Sprint.

Rootmetrics said Verizon’s LTE service was available in all 77 markets it tested, with AT&T’s LTE network available in 47 out of the 77 tested markets. Sprint’s LTE service was available in five of the 77 markets Rootmetrics tested.

T-Mobile has not yet begun deploying its LTE service, though that MetroPCS purchase should accelerate the carrier’s LTE deployment. T-Mobile’s 3G HSPA+42 network reached 7.3Mbps in download and 1.5Mbps in average upload speeds in the Rootmetrics survey.

The Deutsche Telekom-owned wireless carrier will land the iPhone soon and has previously promised to start rolling out LTE in 2014. T-Mobile stands poised to offer “impressive download speeds” with the combination of its existing HSPA+42 network and the upcoming 4G LTE technology.

Rootmetrics notes that even though Sprint’s LTE speeds lag behind those of AT&T and Verizon, they are “faster than what Sprint publicly claimed they would be.”

Consumer Reports, the influential U.S. magazine, in its barrage of recent tests concluded that AT&T has the best 4G LTE service, but also the worst voice and data service quality.