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T-Mobile HSPA+ vs Sprint WiMAX

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T-Mobile HSPA+ vs Sprint WiMAX
When there is just so much hoopla regarding which carrier is offering the best and most reliable “4G” speeds, you really need to have an open mind if numbers don't actually pan out the way you expect them to go. In reality, there are so many factors that contribute to the actual results that one can hardly experience the same performance twice. Lucky for the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding region, it lays host to both Sprint's WiMAX and T-Mobile's HSPA+ network to offer consumers the true taste of next generation data speeds. We took the T-Mobile myTouch 4G and Samsung Epic 4G out across different locations to see what kind of numbers they're able to put out.

Before getting into the nitty gritty portion of the actual speed tests, we would like to provide a little bit of background on both respective “4G” networks. When we first got our hands on the HTC EVO 4G back in the summer, Sprint's WiMAX network was already in place around the greater Philadelphia region. We weren't necessarily impressed with the speeds we experienced back then because the iPhone 3GS, which we had on us at the time, was able to produce the same speed results on AT&T's network. Needless to say that it didn't leave much to the imagination as it appeared that Clearwire's service has been heavily oversold in the Philadelphia region. Despite the possibilities that WiMAX has to offer in terms of speed, it can be greatly limited due to a congested infrastructure that can't quite handle the overload.

Most recently, we were enthralled by the performance we witnessed using the T-Mobile G2 running on HSPA+ connectivity as it managed to easily provide us real world average upload speeds of 100kbps when tethered to a laptop. Compared to what we've used previously, it was a tremendous improvement over other devices we used – like the 20kbps with a Sprint HTC Touch, 40kbps on a Motorola DROID 2, and 50kbps with an HTC EVO 4G.
myTouch 4G (left) vs Epic 4G (right)
myTouch 4G (left) vs Epic 4G (right)

myTouch 4G (left) vs Epic 4G (right)

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, when Sprint's WiMAX network continued to branch out as it eventually hit New Jersey's borders and into the city of Trenton, our whole perception of Sprint's 4G network changed suddenly. Instead of the flat line speeds we experienced previously, this time around we were more than surprised to see the HTC EVO 4G living up to its name of being the poster child of the next generation data network. We'd surmise that the improved speed was attributed to the lower density population of people using the 4G network – compared to the over-saturated market of Philadelphia.

So that now turns our attention to our latest outing between the Samsung Epic 4G and T-Mobile myTouch 4G. By now, we'd imagine that a good chunk of consumers around the Philadelphia and Trenton regions are getting comfortable using the next generation networks of both carriers. We took both handsets out on a Saturday night across various areas to better gauge what kinds of speeds each are able to exhibit. With the Samsung Epic 4G, it's clearly noted that you have 4G connectivity by simply looking at the 4G icon in the notification tray. However, the same cannot be said about the myTouch 4G since it will display an “H” to indicate that it has either 3G, HSDPA, HSPA, and HSPA+ speeds. In fact, you really can't tell if you're connected to HSPA+ until you actually perform a speed test.

HSPA+ vs WiMAX in Northeast Philadelphia

HSPA+ vs WiMAX in Northeast Philadelphia

In locations A to E, we primarily went around various known spots in Northeast Philadelphia where HSPA+ is confirmed to be present. Naturally, we know for sure that Sprint's WiMAX is present in the same area because of the icon in the notification tray. However, the only thing we noticed during our testing was that the Samsung Epic 4G displayed only 1 bar of signal strength versus the 4 on the T-Mobile myTouch 4G. And as you can tell from the table, download speeds aren't drastically different since they generally hover between 0.8 to 1.52Mbps between the two. At the same time, the upload speeds weren't anything to boast about since they were much slower at around 0.3 to 0.73Mbps. Again, we'd like to point out the heavily populated area that most likely is contributing to the poor results with both devices.

As we move forward and see these networks bring improved speeds over existing 3G connections, the biggest hurdle that we face in finding acceptable performance from these “4G” networks is none other than latency. With so much data being transferred in and out of base station antennas to devices, there will be that limiting factor of latency that we'll have to deal with – which can have adverse effects with  real-time processes like web browsing. In fact, we found that T-Mobile's latency is far better than anything that Sprint's WiMAX network has to offer. In every single location we performed our speeds tests, the T-Mobile myTouch 4G managed to get latency numbers in the range of 74 to 122ms – which is vastly better than the 116 to 206ms range with the HTC EVO 4G.

HSPA+ vs WiMAX in Trenton, NJ

HSPA+ vs WiMAX in Trenton, NJ

Traveling across the river and into Trenton, NJ, the results are far better than what we experienced in Philadelphia. Overall, both upload and download speeds are higher – with the myTouch 4G having the advantage in terms of upload speeds. But you can't help but look at the much faster download speeds with the Samsung Epic 4G as it managed to obtain speeds around 3.00Mbps. Still, the T-Mobile myTouch 4G throws up some respectable results as it hovered around 1.2 to 1.58Mbps.

After doing some calculations, it turns out that the T-Mobile myTouch 4G running on HSPA+ achieves almost equal results to the Epic 4G's WiMAX networking, when in congested areas. Philadelphia has been treated to both WiMAX and HSPA+ connectivity for a while now, but Trenton just recently got covered by both – thus showing the considerable degrees of variance that the two locations exhibit. In the end, these speed tests are far better than what we experience on other 3G enabled devices – so yeah, they'll definitely get the job done. However, you'll just have to remember that you can't expect to experience the same speeds everywhere you travel since there are numerous factors that come into play. Now it'll be intriguing to see how Verizon's newly launched 4G LTE network compares...

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posted on 29 Dec 2010, 10:20

64. OHSU (unregistered)

I get around 4.8-5.4 mbps in Portland OR on mytouch slide.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 07:24

1. mdemars11 (Posts: 4; Member since: 17 Dec 2010)

I am also interested in Verizon LTE since I have a Droid Incredible and using the Speedtest.net app, I got an average of 1.77MB download and 0.96MB upload in North Philadelphia on 3G. I know it is just one location, but it is interesting that it is on par with these supposed 4G networks.

posted on 18 Dec 2010, 13:30 1

31. smpdx (Posts: 127; Member since: 02 Nov 2010)

NO NO NO! Its not on par at all! These speed tests are crap. Go to a city where the 4G network is well established!
Like Portland, OR!
I NEVER EVER EVER EVER get less than 6mbps. I average around 8mbps and I peak out at 9mbps.

Mytouch4G with HSPA+ tops out at 3mbps. Actually more like 2.5, but I was rounding up for tmobs sake.

Portland has great wimax and great hspa+ coverage. WiMax will ALWAYS be at least double hspa+ speeds.

posted on 21 Dec 2010, 22:50

58. ICEbORN (unregistered)

I also live in Portland, OR (Cedar Mills). Just ran a speedtest on my MyTouch 4G 3.87down .58up with 3 bars of service. Average is between 3 and 5. BIG UPS FOR PORTLAND

posted on 06 Sep 2011, 22:21

71. mr infiniti (unregistered)

yea in chicago i average around 7 mbps

posted on 06 Sep 2011, 22:22

72. mr infiniti (unregistered)

and thats with sprint

posted on 16 Oct 2011, 15:35

73. n00b_lmfao (unregistered)

I live in phoenix and i get 15 to 25 mbs and upload of 3 to 9...not bad at all and thank baby jesus i have unlimited data since i use 15-20 gb's a month...

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 07:24

2. Math (unregistered)

3.23+3.27+3.28+3.19 / 4=2.59?!?!?!? That is the dumbest thing I have seen on this website to date. Congrats PhoneArena for wasting another 2 mins of my life.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 08:29 2

3. PhoneArena Team (Posts: 258; Member since: 27 Jun 2006)


We are sorry for the mistake, apparently math isn't one of our strong points. We've fixed the table now.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 09:32 3

7. asdhasopfd (unregistered)

(3.23+3.27+3.28+3.19) / 5 = 2.59
they made a slight error...
and btw, your equation is wrong (you forgot the parentheses)

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 09:20 2

4. Bullshit Ads (unregistered)

I'm so sick of these bullshit full page ads. It comes up consistently, not only am I not interested in it but I will go out of my way to make sure not buy buy or click on anything. I don't mind ads on the page but to be bombarded and have to click here to continue just pisses me off. I'm just gonna quit coming here.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 09:32 2

6. Sellcell (Posts: 118; Member since: 16 Mar 2010)

I deffinately agree

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 09:31

5. Sellcell (Posts: 118; Member since: 16 Mar 2010)

One thing I do have to say about this speed test app, is that I don't believe it to be fully accurate. The reason for this, and you can try it your self, but my friend and I tested our speeds with the same app using Sprint's Epic and VZW's Droid 2. The 1st time we tested it, his droid beat the my Epic in both upload and download speeds. Right after, we both pulled our batteries and then booted them back up and tried it again. This time the Epic pumbled the droid 2 in both download and upload speeds. Given this was only on Sprint and VZW's 3G networks, I still believe that this can make a difference on the speeds.

posted on 02 Jan 2011, 13:33

65. stopcryinitsjusafone (Posts: 10; Member since: 02 Jan 2011)

Well questlove (drummer from roots) I do agree with what you said...l.but i will still give you thumbs down because im all about the bass.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 09:34 3

8. JeffdaBeat (unregistered)

This is kind of why I say, forget 3G and 4G. Go with whoever has the fastest speed if that's your concern. Labels don't matter much unless you are buying clothes.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 09:41

9. Tre-Nitty (Posts: 468; Member since: 16 Nov 2010)

If these are supposed to be 4g speeds then they both suck. I usually pull 3-4 mbps easily with my ATT in central Florida. If I put it on wireless I usually hover around 9-11 mbps. Maybe it's just that area. Jeffdabeat as usual I agree with your post.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 10:13

10. Prady (unregistered)

Here in India we are still waiting for 3G :(
Anyhow I got a chance to use 3G when Airtel was testing 3G networks for more than a week. I got decent download speed of 1.3 Mbps on HSPA, hopefully its going to start within next couple of months.
But thing is how much they are going to charge for this..
4G I guess will take another year so.


posted on 17 Dec 2010, 12:04

11. remixfa (Posts: 14327; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

if u were on HSPA+ u would have gotten better speeds. its easy to tell. go to settings, about phone, status, and look at what it tells ya for connection.

im sitting in HSDPA on my vibrant hitting 3+mbps. and its noon so the network is having its daily congestion. i really hate these stupid speed tests because the reviewers never seem to actually know what network they are on. (admittedly tmobile doesnt make it all that easy with that stupid H symbol). Its not THAT hard to make sure though before u spout off a speed test review.

when the network isnt congested i get 4-6mbps on my vibrant, and when in 4g, my wife's G2 gets around 10mbps consistantly.

Both wich beat Sprints "4g wimax" network that has averages speeds less than 4, as proven by the test... the only part the reviewer got right.. lol.

phone model with baseband;

signal type:

speed test image:

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 12:48

14. Gingermidget (unregistered)

You sadden me Remixfa. I'm at work so I can't open your links but if they are from anywhere other than Philadelphia or Trenton, NJ then you are clearly substandard in terms of intelligence. If they are from those areas then I apologize for my previous comment. Once again, upload/download speeds will vary greatly (yes, greatly) from area to area. I have five very different results in a 50 foot radius, ranging from 1mbps to 6mbps. So before you spout off a retort to a review made in an area that you are not in, you should really remind yourself of the importance of location. Again, if those links are from the same areas, then I apologize.

posted on 18 Dec 2010, 09:55

28. Erebus (unregistered)

The whole point was that the phone might not have been on HSPA+. If you are comparing 4g to 4g then they both need to actually be on 4g. T-mobile shows an H whether you are on HSDPA or HSPA+ so it is hard to tell if you are on 4g or not. Or I guess I should say advertised 4g and not actual 4g. If you can't comprehend someone's comment then don't tout about their intelligence, it just looks ignorant.

posted on 18 Dec 2010, 13:10

30. gingermidget (unregistered)

Why discuss comparisons if his whole point was based solely on the point that the reviewer may not have been on HSPA+? Why wouldn't you simply point out that he may have been on the wrong network rather than going into a comparison of 4g vs. 4g or 4g vs. 3g?

My point, which you clearly missed, was that download/upload speeds fluctuate based on location. So why try to judge as to whether or not the reviewer is in HSPA+ based entirely on upload/download speed of an area that remixfa isn't even in. His argument is moot and illogical. Again, I can't see his links so I'm not sure if he is in the areas in question: if he is I again apologize.

To diagram his argument so that you can see that it is illogical:

"If X is true at point A then X must also be true at point B."

posted on 18 Dec 2010, 17:40

32. remixfa (Posts: 14327; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

The big part that toy are missing is that the speed test itself is of base. In the review the side says the only way to test for 4g is to run a speed test, wich is not accurate. I can tel you for a fact that I've NEVER seen my wifes g2 get a measly 1mbps on full hspa+. There are aso few devices that use hspa+ that there is little slow down, which is untrue of wimax which has been oversold.
The ONLY POINT I was making was that the reviewer was NOT on 4g and a simple check of the phone's status would have settled it. Anything over 1.5 would have been on hsdpa, but it sure as hell isn't hspa+.

Half assed speed reviews make the network look bad because the reviewer doesn't know what signal he is getting. Laymen that don't know any better will take the review as fact and make decisions accordingly. Tmobile obviously doesn't make it easy to tell, but its nite impossible

posted on 18 Dec 2010, 17:48

33. remixfa (Posts: 14327; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

Pardon my spelling errors, I'm one handing swype between customers..lol

posted on 19 Dec 2010, 15:26

39. gingermidget (unregistered)

My T-Mo. rep just informed me that the phone being shown is, infact, operating on HSPA+. So there goes that argument.

posted on 20 Dec 2010, 08:54

47. remixfa (Posts: 14327; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

your a bigger idiot than i thought.

the only way to KNOW what signal your getting is to look in the system settings like i showed in the original post. your rep is also an idiot. dont argue unless you know what ur arguing about, lol.

that "H" signal that shows 3g and above... it shows when its hspa+ (up to 14.4mb), hsdpa (up to 7.2), and umts (up to 2).
it only doesnt show when your on E (edge or shitty 2g) or GPRS (u got no signal worth noting)

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 12:25

12. Gingermidget (unregistered)

This is proof of the fact that 3g/4g speeds are totally location based. I live in Reno, NV and was presented with information similar to this from my T-Mobile rep (as I work for a 3rd party retailer). The information was from a small California town, as I live in Reno I disregarded the numbers and began the testing for myself. In Reno there are about 12 different results, all of which have a different leader. It totally depends on coverage map and how many subscribers to each are condensed in a given area. To the guy who said AT&T gets better upload/download speeds in central Florida: I get terrible AT&T speeds all over Reno and the existance of anything resembling solid speeds is near nonexistant in San Fransisco. Why do you think the typical interview with anyone who owns an iPhone goes like so: "

"What do you think of the iPhone?" Inquires person A.

"It would be great, if only it wasn't exclusive to the crappy AT&T network." explains person B.

So, great you get decent upload/download speeds in central Florida, you also have to contend with a data cap, poor customer service, poor phone selection (OH SHIT!!! You got the Flipside), crappy coverage, and a company that exists to worship at the feet of Steve Jobs so they can make an attempt at retaining their exclusivity contract with Apple.
You know why Verizon is getting an iPhone, because Apple understands that with a solid network they will sell more iPhones to the sheeple.

In summation: congratulations, you get great service in some central Florida suburb. That literally must be the only place in the United States that gets decent AT&T coverage. If you don't live in a suburb and you're like the majority of Americans and live in the city, your network is so bogged down with iPhone, iPad, and Kindle (whose customers pay a one time 50 dollar fee when purchasing their Kindle, that allows them the use of your 3g network that you pay so much to be on) users that you can't load a webpage in the time it takes me to take a picture of your silly ass crying about your shitty network, then post it to my facebook and prepare for the incoming lulz.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 12:38

13. Ninjakamster (unregistered)

One thing that I like about Sprint's WiMax network is that it seems to be truly unlimited, unlike T-Mobile's HSPA+ which has a 5gb soft cap where then they will throttle your speed down. Tethering my Epic 4G to my computer and downloading Steam games so far, I've hit at least 15gb and no drop at all.

It had better be, since I am paying the $10 "Premium Data Charge" from Sprint by having a 4G device, despite being in a 4G coverage area or not.

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 13:21

15. i like chicken (unregistered)

well here in denver i have an average speed of about 4.7 mbs. during peak hours. so this test of us getting a 1.1 in nj is blastphemous. they need some serious network modifications in that are. wow

posted on 17 Dec 2010, 13:23

16. i like chicken (unregistered)

i forgot to add thats on my g2

posted on 23 Dec 2010, 21:12

62. remixfa (Posts: 14327; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

not cap usage, cap speeds. Tmobile is capable of 21mbs but caps the phones at 14.4. only the aircards right now get full 21. One could assume VZW might do something similar to control bandwith but we wont find out until they release a phone.

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