Tests show AT&T's LTE network is fastest, T-Mobile's HSPA+ "faster" than Sprint's LTE

Tests show AT&T's LTE network is fastest, T-Mobile's HSPA+
Every year, PCMag drives all around the country to test the wireless carrier networks in 30 different states. The tests are pretty impressive, and quite helpful for those of you who may be unhappy with your service and looking to switch. This year, the big winner was AT&T, which proved to have the fastest LTE, but there were other surprises in the testing as well.

The basic results of the test are this: if you're looking for speed and you live in or around an urban area, AT&T is the best option; but if you're in a rural area, Verizon is the better choice. 

The interesting part of the testing is that in most of the areas tested, T-Mobile's HSPA+ network posted faster average download speeds than even Sprint's LTE network. The great equalizer though was T-Mobile's "average time to first byte", which was about 3x slower than any other network. That means, once your download gets going, T-Mobile offers great speeds, but it will likely take a while to get that download going. T-Mobile's LTE network largely gets rid of that delay, but is too small to really make much of a showing in the tests.

If you want to drill down into your specific region of the country to see how each carrier fared, just head to the source. 

source: PCMag

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40 Comments

1. threeline

Posts: 313; Member since: Sep 11, 2011

I feel sorry for Sprint customers. I used be one their victims and didn't know what I was missing until I left. Never again.

12. HASHTAG unregistered

I'm still their victim.

23. Jeradiah3

Posts: 1149; Member since: Feb 11, 2010

I used to have Sprint and their mobile network was crap!! I have AT&T and im happy to have their LTE network. Honestly...............every carrier has their issues, BUT you have to decide what issues you're willing to deal with when you sign their 2yr contract

26. lsutigers

Posts: 832; Member since: Mar 08, 2009

The reality is that Sprint's LTE network is in it's infancy and just now being deployed vs AT&T and Verizons more mature LTE networks and TMO's much older HSPA network. We'll see how it shakes out next year when Sprint is expected to have LTE on Nextel's 800mhz spectrum and possibly the ultra high speed TD-LTE on Clearwire's spectrum and T-Mobile has had a chance to fully deploy LTE. Either way, I see Sprint LTE speeds of 20+mbps quite frequently, so it depends on the area.

27. TheRequiem

Posts: 245; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

A comment like this shows just how uneducated and out of the loop the general American public is. Sprints new modular technology is new technology and is using superior technology then the other 3. I also significantly doubt the authenticity of a PC publishing company testing cellular networks. I'm not exactly sure where they were testing Sprints LTE network, but in 5 cities I have been to where it is complete, I averaged well over 20mbps. Are they testing in unlaunched cities? Sounds bogus to me. Sprint has 800 LTE coming and lets not forget that Sprint/ Clearwires new network is supposed to be the fastest in the country at 168mbps average sustained in urban areas and the first 2000 sites should be done this month.

33. ThePro

Posts: 26; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

I don't think sprint's network is good in the real world. I live on a 5-bar area in the suburbs of Washington DC, and I'm getting 50mbps easily outside Inside I can get around 30mbps with 5 bars PhoneArena doesn't let me post links, but if you want them, I think you can send me a private and I'll give them.

40. sdlizard

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 21, 2013

Dude, I'm trying to figure out why you keep getting so sore about everybody's put downs on Sprint. Just because you have good service doesn't mean everybody else does or that we are "uneducated" as you say. I have a samsung galaxy 3 and have had sprint for 2 years as of November. I will promptly be changing to a different carrier. After having Verizon for over 10 years it's hard to go to a service like Sprint when it comes to quality; however Verizon will never get another dime from me but, that's another story. I live in San Diego and I have the worst service I've had ever and they don't even have 4G down here and I've been told for the last 2 years when I purchased my phone that they had it. But no I have horrible 3G and I don't even think it's as good as 3G to be honest. I don't have data service half the time. So you can be happy with your Sprint but there are many of us who are very unhappy and for good reason.

39. Maverick1

Posts: 32; Member since: Sep 30, 2012

Don't feel sorry for me, I'm a Sprint customer and a very happy one at that. The 3G speeds I get are good: 132 ms Ping, 2.45Mbps down & 0.77Mbps up with no issues streaming pandora, netflix, youtube web browsing etc and simultaneously at that plus upload time to say facebook is within 5-10 seconds. Buffering is a thing of the past since network vision enhancements. 4G LTE speeds , well I've already posted those below so just reference that and performance is instant. Blazing fast!

2. darkkjedii

Posts: 31045; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

AT&T is also spotty as all hell too. At least in the LV.

16. ZeroCide

Posts: 813; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

Thats just your iphone doing that. :)

30. bigdawg23

Posts: 467; Member since: May 25, 2011

Not as spotty as Verizon. I was there in March for a meeting. I have an ATT phone and Verizon MiFi. My LTE/Service was more reliable than VZW. I thought it was my MiFi spot until coworkers with the Razor Maxx HD and S3 complained of no signal. This was even outside of the Monte Carlo on the Strip.

31. Blazers

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

Vegas has great coverage with AT&T LTE, unless you live on the outer fringe areas with heavy handed HOAs who don't want cell phone towers in their neighborhoods.

3. Dorothy69

Posts: 498; Member since: May 21, 2013

HA!!!!! Try telling that to AT&T customers who live near 14th Street / Union Square in Manhattan and have, not only BAD voice but, ABYSMAL data service on AT&T. I agree, T-Mobile is better than Sprint but, rapidly declining just as badly. Verizon is the only carrier with consistent voice and high-speed 4G LTE data service (NATIONALLY)!!

4. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

Definitely seeing those great att lte speeds here in riverside, ca and most of SoCal that I go to. Fast and pretty consistent. But if I drive 11 miles north into San Bernardino that consistency drops.

17. ZeroCide

Posts: 813; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

Ican't wait till sprint lights up that area with LTE.

5. wumberpeb

Posts: 453; Member since: Mar 14, 2011

I'll take Sprint LTE for their far lower ping than T-Mobile..waiting a few seconds for the connection to even begin would be a bit maddening

8. JDogg5281

Posts: 74; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

If you can even find Sprints LTE.....If your not on Sprints LTE your on their 3g network and everyone knows how painfully slow that is. Being on Sprints 3g would be maddening.

13. HASHTAG unregistered

I know! Sprint doesn't even have 3G, it's more like 2G.

25. JEverettnow

Posts: 228; Member since: Mar 11, 2013

Its actually slower than 2g at about 200kbps if you are in a good area.

28. TheRequiem

Posts: 245; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

No it's not. On their old legacy network yes... But on their network vision overhauled 3G is dramatically faster with lower pings. I get an average of about 50 ping and 2.5-4mbps on their new 3G network. Also if you check LA and Chicago where their new network is mostly complete on sensorly, they have far better performance then other networks.

36. JDogg5281

Posts: 74; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

Far better performance than the other networks really? You might be the first person that has ever said that

6. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

And I don't see why T-Mobile is trying so hard against AT&T 4G commericals

7. Maverick1

Posts: 32; Member since: Sep 30, 2012

It all depends on location so wherever these particular tests are performed doesn't give a clear picture. Many factors will weigh in such as congestion, time of day, population, status of network etc in those areas. I for one live in an area that's fonomiable when it comes to network speeds on Sprint 4G LTE. 74ms Ping; 35.53Mbps down; 10.43Mbps up And it will only improve especially more so with Softbank's acquisition of Sprint.

9. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

WOW. I'm jealous! My Sprint HTC One gets 100-500 Kbps pretty much everywhere in Seattle. It sees LTE but as soon as I initiate a download it boots me back to EVDO which right now is running around 100 Kbps. By the SeaTac Airport I can actually stay on their LTE network and I get a whopping 3000 Kbps down. Where right next to it on my Tmobile Note 2 I get 10-30 Mbps everywhere. Sprint right now is pathetic in Seattle. I've been with them for 12 years now so I'm not quick to jump ship, but if they didn't have a $350 ETF I'd have transferred our family away a long time ago. So sad when my old EVO 4G got 1.0 Mbps on their EVDO network and 8 Mbps on WiMAX. If anyone can kill the experience of a flagship phone it's Sprint's 3G.

29. TheRequiem

Posts: 245; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

Network vision is also underway in Seattle and is only about 25% done, it'll be a lot more exciting when finished. It's only a soft launched market now.

10. Omarc07

Posts: 574; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

like always it depends were one lives over here in los angeles att lte is a mixed bag but still faster than verizon lte ,verizon lte used to be awesome but it slooowed down alot i know people on verizon that get 6 mbps dwn and 1-2 up tops. While att gets a lil bit higher up to 9dwn and 4-5 up. T-Mobile hspa here is awesome theres no denying that i had em and used to get up to 20 mbps but problem with t-mobile is coverage its spotty u walk down the wrong street u on edge while att has more solid data u rarely see edge on att. Sprint has lte here its faast my friend gets like 30 dwn ,15 up but sprints coverage here is worse than tmobile so yea..

15. Maverick1

Posts: 32; Member since: Sep 30, 2012

That's great to hear about your friends speed test on Sprint but I need to ask even though it's not 100% coverage it does pick up signal in roaming status, yes.

11. ahhxd717

Posts: 332; Member since: Dec 08, 2011

Luckily I've lived in placed where ATT isn't so terrible, as many here on this site have claimed. Although these areas are Indianapolis and Bloomington, IN and have had their LTE for a while. I can't complain about their service.

14. flynfree

Posts: 374; Member since: Jun 09, 2013

I've notice that my tmobile hTc One have a greater 4g/lte reception than to my gnote 2 around our house, only on the left wing my gnote 2 can get LTE and it always drop to 4g, while my hTc One is barely drop the LTE signal (San Diego location). I'm just thinking that the aluminum unibody of this phone maybe! can help the network signal.

18. techaman unregistered

sprint truly is the slowest thing out there the 4g lte is 2.3 mb and the 3g is .004mb thats 56k dial up speed people i told them about this and they said they dont guarantee any speeds so i told them i dont guarantee i will pay them any more cant wait to switch to t mobile no contract.

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