T-Mobile HSPA+ vs Sprint WiMAX

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.
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.

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.

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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