CES 2012 LTE Face-Off - AT&T versus Verizon Wirelessby Brian Klug on January 13, 2012 5:18 AM EST
My friends often think I've lost my mind given how many times I run speedtests on handsets in the process of reviewing them. The reason I'm compulsive about testing cellular network throughput and conditions is because it's massively important to the overall smartphone experience - remove the cellular connection, and you've got a very expensive personal media player at best. We've taken a good look at Verizon's 4G LTE a number of times, however we haven't yet given AT&T's LTE the same treatment, though it's coming soon.
We're wrapping up CES 2012 in Las Vegas, and the whole time I've been obsessively running throughput tests using Ookla's speedtest.net application on an HTC Vivid and CDMA/LTE Galaxy Nexus, two UE Category 3 devices on AT&T and Verizon Wireless LTE, respectively. I thought it worthwhile to share how AT&T LTE has stacked up next to Verizon Wireless 4G LTE during CES thus far. I've been running tests on both phones at the same time in both the Las Vegas Convention Center and Venetian CES venues in between meetings, as well as up and down the Strip during the convention. This isn't meant to be super scientific, but gives a decently fair gauge for how things have performed thus far.
The results are pretty interesting, and show that AT&T's LTE was slightly faster than Verizon 4G LTE during the show, though the two end up being pretty close at the end of the day. I've done the same statistical breakdown we do for smartphone reviews for the results, and made some color-coded histograms as well. I ended up running just north of 200 tests total, so ~100 per device.
Downstream Stats (Mbps)Avg: 17.681; Max: 45.708; Min: 3.78, StDev: 9.000Upstream Stats (Mbps)Avg: 6.575; Max: 14.188; Min: 0.105, StDev: 3.234Latency Stats (ms)Avg: 107.549; Max: 134; Min: 65, StDev: 8.999
Downstream Stats (Mbps)Avg: 11.185; Max: 33.571; Min: 0.184, StDev: 6.965Upstream Stats (Mbps)Avg: 7.133; Max: 16.44; Min: 0.135, StDev: 4.038Latency Stats (ms)Avg: 126.41; Max: 439; Min: 83, StDev: 51.554
The data ends up being pretty intriguing, and neither network honestly comes out dramatically ahead of the other. This isn't surprising considering both are running 10 MHz FDD-LTE on the 700 MHz band right now. AT&T also can deploy a 5 MHz FDD-LTE carrier on AWS in Las Vegas, though I'm not sure it is currently lit up, and I can't check if it's in use on the HTC Vivid like I can the Samsung Skyrocket. AT&T LTE posted better downstream numbers than VZW LTE overall and came in with a higher maximum throughput of just over 44 Mbps down, but is admittedly nowhere near as loaded with devices as Verizon's year-old 4G LTE network.
Subjectively, Verizon's 4G LTE coverage is also better than AT&T's in Las Vegas. I couldn't take down numbers on the handsets, but needless to say there were a number of areas where AT&T LTE didn't propagate where VZW LTE was perfectly fine. We got better 4G LTE signal in more casinos and hard-to-reach areas in the Venetian with Verizon than AT&T, though admittedly Verizon has been deploying and improving its network for much longer than AT&T.
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JarredWalton - Friday, January 13, 2012 - linkSo the 4G connections are also far less congested than 3G, and I had a Verizon 4G mobile broadband card plugged into my laptop during the show. It was so much faster than any of the wifi connections that were available, and disabling the 3G radio meant that I never had problems with dropping from 4G to 3G and then having to wait 15+ minutes (or sometimes more) for the connection to step back up to 4G. As more users get on 4G this probably won't be the case (e.g. CES in 2014?), but for this show 4G support was amazingly responsive everywhere I used it, including at the convention center.
Brian Klug - Friday, January 13, 2012 - linkAT&T WCDMA (3G) has been pretty much completely dead for me the entire show. Every time I go to Las Vegas I spend the entire time on GSM/EDGE to get anything done at all. It's awful.
ZPrime - Friday, January 13, 2012 - linkI would take these results with an entire bag of salt.
I have the Galaxy Nexus, and I recently upgraded my home internet to 30/5 service. I can use speedtest.net's flash site on my laptop and get expected speed (dead on the 30/5). Testing from my phone, it is showing that my cable connection is only good for ~3-4Mbit downstream, while the upstream is testing OK right around 5.
I've seen higher speedtests from the GNex, at work and at home on wifi, and also via the LTE, so I'm not sure what the deal is here. I've personally witnessed it give very wrong results over multiple tests over a period of 30-some minutes in the dead of the night, so I am not sure that I fully trust the app right now.
Brian Klug - Friday, January 13, 2012 - linkThere's something weird with your WLAN configuration at your home - I get results on par with what I'd expect for the BCM4330 inside the GN at home on 5 GHz.