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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73 Comments

70. mqmorasch unregistered

MyTouch 4G in Tampa is clocking around 4Mbps consistently. While my wife's Evo 4G is a tick over 1.5Mbps.

69. xtomatoe unregistered

I must be in a good Wimaxx zone, I just hit 11.4mbs down and 1mbs up on my Photon 4g

68. shark unregistered

I have gotten 6+MB in New Jersey and 2+MB in New mexico with T-mobile.

67. t1 connect unregistered

4g4 is right and wrong, they dont say hspa+ is 4g, but they do say evolved 3g is considered 4g and well, hspa+ is really evolved 3g and is doubling in speed this year...and stop with the 4g and 3g talk. you guys sound like a bunch of clueless idiots....we're bloggers and tech junkies. people call us geeks because of what we know....take it and run with it, and stop arguing about it....we know whats what....sheesh

66. tennisguru unregistered

I have the mytouch 4g and on numberous occasions I at least reach 1.7 or 1.8 on 3G on and when I am running on 4G I have reach speeds up to 5.5 and on average about 4.4 So this whole report is a bunch of crap.

61. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Why do people write....FAIL!!....a bunch of idiotic nonsense designed to make the person saying the word feel better about themselves as they are just a speck in this vast and infinite universe...

59. WillieFDiaz

Posts: 127; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Sprint hasnt officially launched WiMAX in SF yet - 5 more days for that, but I can tell you in testing, most of th speeds I experienced looked like Philly speeds... DISMAL. Only in some areas of SF (mainly Civic Center) and San Jose Downtown have I experienced 5-7mbps - and even then it was only a handful of times. I dont see SF actually gaining WiMAX customers with these speeds, and I see a TON of people sticking with Verizon or moving back to T-Mobile HSPA+.

53. donjonson410

Posts: 32; Member since: Jan 11, 2010

I get 10-12mbs with Clear in Baltimore. http://www.speedtest.net/result/1079657448.png

63. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

i thought about getting Clear service since im like .5 miles from a 4g tower. everyone told me they throttle down a lot though, and since my main uses would be netflix and XBL, that makes it useless to me. blah. 10,000 complaints on the internet about the exact same thing make me wanna believe it.. lol

46. topher417

Posts: 2; Member since: Jun 22, 2010

I want to say that via USB Tether my Epic 4g in the Orlando area gets a much better connection. I have personally dowloaded torrents at over 850kB/s (thats a capitol B) Comes in handy since we only have a T1 at my office.

44. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

4G4, you must be the only person to 'read' the article then....lol

45. 4G4ever unregistered

Look directly to the source, the ITU's own press release:http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/press_releases/2010/48.aspx Please point out where they specifically name HSPA+ as eligible to be called 4G....lol

49. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

hspa+ is concidered the "evolved 3g tech". thats what it has always been called by tech insiders. your fighting a war of words against yourself. sorry, yea, wimax was first out of the gate and because of that, its the slowest. its also been oversold so the network is about as consistant as lindsay lohans sobriety. dont hate on everyone else.

51. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

52. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Maybe can just all blame PHONEARENA, huh?

57. smpdx

Posts: 127; Member since: Nov 02, 2010

Everyone knows phonearena is horrible at reporting news. 4G4ever is right. You are wrong. You arguments are illogical. You fail.

60. jd829

Posts: 155; Member since: Feb 24, 2010

No, smpdx did too. Or no, I think he wrote it, cuz apparently he is the sole expert on what 4G is was and can/will be. Let's all just consult him from here on out if we have any other questions, ok?

40. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Remixa, antiquated?? LOL, 1 day old info is antiquated??? LOL, and 4G4, stop being a troll and learn to read the article....every network in the U.S. has a 4G network....in a couple of years it may only be three. REMIXA, yeah, I saw that consumer report article....thing is - it is just a poll, kind of like those polls that are ran during an election year...popularity does not mean a thing....go by real-time drive by done by GWS....the team literally drove around the U.S. over 100,000 miles. Now, reliability may be another issue, lol - Plus, most people who want to complain are going to be participating in surveys such as the one by C.R. Still not good for AT&T. http://www.conceivablytech.com/4257/business/att-claims-fastest-mobile-broadband-network/ Too many people complain about something nowadays, and most who complain are clueless as to what goes into a network. Verizon went 4G because they were usually the slowest....that should change once the test is redone mid-year and VERIZON has some 4G phones. Wow, I remember EDGE CLASS 10 speeds were considered excellent.

43. 4G4ever unregistered

I did read the article....quite obviously before you did. Perhaps YOU should reread it. Slowly this time.

56. smpdx

Posts: 127; Member since: Nov 02, 2010

4G4ever is correct. They dont ever say "HSPA+" Like he said, you interpreted it that way because you are actually the one who isn't paying attention. You fail. networkdood and Galen20K... you are both being rediculous. Go read the article. They dont mention HSPA+. But they do mention WiMAX and LTE. Not every network has 4G networkdood. Does AT&T have 4G? Really? Try walking into ANY AT&T store or talking to ANY AT&T employee or even the CEO and all of them will tell you that they dont have a usuable 4G network yet. You are being completely ridiculous. Stop trying to convince people HSPA+ is 4G when everyone knows its not.

50. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

hey this is tech, 24 hrs in a tech cycle might as well be a dynasty.

34. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

ok, so the rules have changed....The International Telecommunications Union has expanded its definition of 4G service to include WiMax, LTE and HSPA+.

37. 4G4ever unregistered

Actually networkdood, you're incorrect again. The ITU's recent ruling makes NO specific mention of HSPA+. They do specifically mention WiMAX and LTE.

41. Galen20K

Posts: 588; Member since: Dec 26, 2008

Yes they do mention HSPA+, that's one of the "evolved" 3G technologies if you'd pay attention hater.

42. 4G4ever unregistered

For one, save the pointless name calling for someone else. Secondly, unlike yourself, I do pay attention. No, they don't specifically mention HSPA+. It's YOUR interpretation that they meant HSPA+ as one of the evolved 3G technologies. If it was the ITU's intent to include HSPA+ as 4G it would have been easy enough for them to specifically name that technology as they did with WiMAX and LTE. They didn't. That could be very telling.

29. ZayZay unregistered

It looks like your using speedtest.net.... Unreliable, I have used it to clock the speed of my wireless tether from my phone to computer. 1. My phone says the speed it is downloading and uploading. 3G Usually .9 to 1.2 download and .2 to .4 upload but speedtest says .3 to .5 download and .1 at the most for upload. Garbage article from an unreliable source. Good work.

27. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

So, if you read the article it states that current 4G - LTE and wiMAX are just pre-4G. Companies have to stop using 3G and 4G terms since not even their own marketing peoples know their true meaning. And, SPRINT is fast in KC, because that is where SPRINT's home base is at....

36. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

sorry dood, your argument is antiquated. the itu-r just came out and said HSPA+ qualifies for the "4g" moniker just like current wimax and LTE. also, att was just voted the worst network in america by consumer reports.. lol. i get 3-6 on my vibrant, my wife runs constant 10+ when shes in HSPA on her G2. Tmobile has more 3g coverage than att now. its 40% less than ATT. and tmobile doesnt charge extra for 4g like sprint does and verizon probably will. Tmobile is the best value.. lol.

38. 4G4ever unregistered

The best value is decided upon by the end user, remixfa. Having unlimited calls to any mobile phone at any time, truly unlimited data and superior coverage in my area at a similar price makes Sprint a better value for me than t-mobile. YMMV though.

48. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

4g4ever. its not true unthrottled unlimited. its the same as tmobile's. its 5 gig then your throttled down, go look in the mice print on their page under plan details. all of the actual data plans also say 5g cap though, which tmobile doesnt have. i had a customer a few days ago show me that he was using his phone for streaming netflix to his tv. hit over 8gigs in a few days and never got throttled that month. so im assuming its not automatic and that someone has to actually hit the button to slow it down. its still better than att/vzw that charge you out the yingyang after 5gigs.

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