Finally, a good article that tests 3G networks across multiple cities in an objective manner. Of course, you can still have some local street-by-street variation and indoor-outdoor variation, but I am impresed by their methodology.
And the results?
Testing Results in a Nutshell
In Novarum’s tests for us, Verizon Wireless demonstrated a good mix of speed and reliability. Across more than 20 testing locations in each of the 13 cities we tested, Verizon had an average download speed of 951 kbps. Verizon demonstrated good reliability, too; the network was available at a reasonable and uninterrupted speed in 89.8 percent of our tests.
Sprint’s 3G network delivered a solid connection in 90.5 percent of our 13-city tests. Sprint’s average download speed of 808 kbps across 13 cities wasn’t flashy (at that speed, a 1MB file downloads in 10 seconds), but dependability is an important asset. The Sprint network performed especially well, both in speed and in reliability, in our test cities in the western part of the United States.
The AT&T network’s 13-city average download speed in our tests was 812 kbps. Its average upload speed was 660 kbps. Reliability was an issue in our experience of the AT&T system: Our testers were able to make a connection at a reasonable, uninterrupted speed in only 68 percent of their tests.
Somewhat surprisingly, our testers also found that the “bars of service” readings on their phones were rarely an accurate predictor of the quality of the ensuing connection. In most places and with most wireless providers, the “bars” did little more than indicate whether the phone had access to some service or to no service. (See “What Do Bars Say About Your Connection?“)