Feb 21 AT 2:27 PM Edgar Cervantes 47 Comments

Will the real “largest 4G network” please stand up?


Carriers love to boast about their reliable and awesome 4G networks. As the 4G war continues, we are starting to see all major competitors cover the country with the awesome speeds that 4G delivers, though these companies have different technologies, speeds and coverage. We now have 3 out of 4 major carriers claiming to run the “largest 4G network” in the US, which is sure to create some confusion among customers.

All companies base their statements upon different sets of norms. First we must consider what constitutes a “real 4G network.” Many of us claim that HSPA+ networks are not real 4G, but very fast 3G, instead. Most people consider real 4G networks to be technologies like WiMAX and 4G LTE.

T-Mobile was the first to make the Largest 4G Network claim. Since it launched “America’s first nationwide 4G network,” the company has had a chance to spread its high-speeds to most of the country. It’s HSPA+21 network now covers 217 markets and 200 million people, while HSPA+42 reaches 175 markets and 184 million people. It was also the first boast the largest 4G network, due to the advantage they had.

It is claimed that Magenta’s network is not “real 4G,” though. Regardless, the network is very fast, and HSPA+42 is able to reach speeds as high as even the fastest LTE networks.

AT&T was one of the first to call out T-Mobile on the fact that its 4G network was not legit, and have recently laid claim to having the largest 4G network for themselves. AT&T basis this claim on the fact that both its 4G LTE and HSPA+ networks combined cover over 200 million users. Even after giving Magenta a hard time over the same issue, AT&T is now adding HSPA+ to its equation. If we only counted 4G LTE, AT&T’s network would reach 28 markets and 74 million people.

AT&T is focusing on a smoother transition that it’s magenta counterpart, however. Their phones will work with both technologies, and if you move out of 4G LTE coverage, odds are you will not need to use 3G, and will be able to use their faster HSPA+ data speeds.

Verizon 4GIn the third corner we have Verizon and its “largest 4G network.” This one happens to be true. Verizon does have the largest 4G LTE network. Since Big Red does not work with any of the other 4G technologies, it has invested much of its resources to build out its 4G LTE coverage.

It’s blazing speeds now cover 196 markets and over 200 million customers, making it the “largest 4G LTE network” in the US. This is quite impressive for being an LTE network, which AT&T and Sprint are barely starting on. Verizon was the first to bring LTE to the US, and has plans to spread it all over the country by 2013.

Sprint is still building its 4G LTE network, and WiMAX is definitely not the largest or fastest, so it is staying out of this argument for now.

I have always said that the “real” and “not-real” 4G arguments were a bit of a play on words to push each other down. There have also been claims that 4G LTE is not “real 4G.” It is fast, but not as fast as industry standards state that 4G should be. Really, these are all networks that are faster than the traditional 3G networks of yesteryear. Some are better than others, of course, but they are all truly the next generation, a true evolution from 3G technology.

Deciding which company has the largest 4G is based on definition, but we must remember carriers are corporations. They need to say such things to make their customers excited. As it usually goes, we would like to know what you guys think. Which carrier do you think has the “largest 4G network”? And do you consider HSPA+ networks to be “real 4G”?

Via: Fierce Wireless

Hello, I am Edgar Cervantes. I am an avid Android fan, and keeping myself updated on the topic is part of my daily life. I will always work hard to give the best of me to our community of Android enthusiasts, and I am very honored to be part of this ship. Hopefully we can all enjoy sharing our knowledge and opinions!

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  • spazby

    LTE is the only 4g network in my mind. I enjoyed wimax on sprint ever since it came out but in my mind, it is like 3.5g, similar to tmobile…

    • thel0nerang3r

      According to the ITU they are all 3G. There isn’t 4G yet. It’s marketing, now with more Gs!

      • cb2000a

        Agreed…they are all 3.5g. We don’t have 4g yet.

      • Dtoxz

        4G is an idea. It stands for 4th generation, that’s all, so companies could release a network that is slow as all hell and call it 4G. It’s another marketing tool like the part numbers on the phones themselves.
        It’s all marketing, 4G does not exist, it’s just “faster internet/data” in the 4th Generation of technology. If you want to compare the networks, compare THE SPEED

      • Marrrin

        I don’t know about that. I have ATT and HTC ONE X and I get 45 megs download in some areas. If that’s not 4g, then what is?

    • Jeff Pan

      The names(HSPA or LTE) don’t matter to me as long as I get pretty good coverage and speed!

    • Tico4674

      If you ever use an hspa+ 42 device on tmobile you would know not to compare it to wimax. Aside from the latency and coverage tmobile’s network is just as fast as verizon.

  • Wunako

    you could say what you want, but i do consider HSPA+ a real 4G network, like Edgar Wrote, HSPA+ is just as fast as LTE, sure TMo might not have coverage everywhere but where there is, trust me its quick, i can download albums in min.s and songs in secs. it keeps up with my friends who have VZW LTE phones.

    At the end of the Day though, everyone will believe who they want as far as marketing but as much as i dislike AT&T i think their approach is smart, building out HSPA+ and LTE, even though im sure they are spending money like crazy on it.

    I am curious how ever to see if Nokia-Seimens “Multiflow” and the spray on nano antennas come to play for all networks, this is the world i want to live in LOL

    • wuZheng

      According to the ITU, one of the requirements for throughput is: “Peak data rates of up to approximately 100 Mbit/s for high mobility such as mobile access and up to approximately 1 Gbit/s for low mobility such as nomadic/local wireless access, according to the ITU requirements.” This point has really annoyed me with the carriers’ usage of the term 4G, because technically, nobody has a 4G network and 4G has simply become a marketing term for what are basically overspec’d 3G networks. LTE is the future because it lays out the path to upgrade to LTE-Advanced which is what was what the ITU was talking about when they planned out the 4G standard. So no, HSPA+ is not a ‘real’ 4G network technology, and it will never be.

      • thel0nerang3r

        there is a saying “don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.”

      • haterontherocks

        that maybe true but the itu has included the term hspa+ as 4g. dont believe me heres an article talking about hspa+ as 4g

      • haterontherocks

        here read this article http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2374564,00.asp tell me if hspa+ isnt 4g

        • thel0nerang3r

          Based on the article you linked, I would say “no.” This is from said article:
          he ITU stands by its official definition of 4G speeds, LTE Release 10 and WiMAX 2, which are being tested and not expected to deploy commercially until 2012. But it’s likely that the UN subsidiary just grew weary of re-educating consumers with its stringent definition.
          “When the world’s mobile carriers decided to ignore the ITU’s definition of 4G, it really put the organization in a bind,” PCMag’s lead mobile analyst Sascha Segan said. “To remain relevant, the ITU had to find some way to fall in line with the language that much of the global cell phone industry is insisting on using.”

          • haterontherocks

            hey if the itu loosen the term of 4g and include lte hspa+ wimax its 4g tech so im guessing it about ur preference even people consider lte as advance 3g just like tmobile hspa+21 or 42 or 84 there’s no 4g in real life but we just gotta take what carrier consider and itu say it is. so for me i dont consider wimax as 4g because when i had my tmobile g1 and my cousin htc evo the first sprint 4g speedtest my phone had like 5mpbs and she had 2 which is odd considering they say its 4g and back then tmobile didnt say it was 4g.

        • reddragonman

          It really isn’t up to the standard, , the ITU caved to what the carriers are calling it, and it’s a shame, as all it is is a marketing ploy. I’ve got no problem staying on 3g advanced technologies until the implementation of true 4g, but it should be the carriers that should have changed their marketing technique to say it’s 3g advanced. Now what are they going to do when “true 4G” does roll out? Call it 5G? That is ridiculous, and the carriers are the ones to blame.

      • Wunako

        well then LTE isnt true 4G as well, and yes ido agree 4G isnt really true but just marketing usuage as i said, its a matter of who appeals to you best, but from first hand experiance HSPA+ is just as fast/good as LTE.

        • haterontherocks

          i totally agree with that. we just gotta take what carrier offer and hope for the best. and now nokia siemens network invented the hspa + multi flow and maybe tmobile would adopt it and put it on their network. i read a few tech website that said tmobile network is able to upgrade to this time of software and hardware if they plan to or move to lte like everyone else. we will what happen in the future of tmobile.

  • thekaz

    Good topic, but I think, for any given mobile user, the real question is “which carrier has 4G coverage where I need it”. Granted, this answer will be different for everyone, but, in my mind, is the only relevant question for a given individual.

    If Topeka doesn’t have 4G (does it?) it doesn’t matter to me personally…

  • http://www.ndroidgamers.com B2L

    Great article, from my experience T-Mobiles HSPA+ has been much faster than AT&T. On AT&T I’m only averaging between 1-3 mbs down, while on T-Mobile I was averaging 5-7 mbs down.

    • RRR

      and will add — so far 2 times more battery friendly

  • OsamaDROIDladden

    Does everyone over seas use hspa+ or do they also use lte

  • aranea

    They can clain whatever speeds they like in the end I get no reception in my work place and patchy reception at my home with ATT. They all need to invest in infrastructure and be open to new strategies for customers. What good how fast your internet connection is if it’s capped and slowed down if you pass a certain amount of use.

    • thel0nerang3r

      Between the capped and slow down options. I take slow down. Those overages can be nasty. I agree with you, it’s super fast! which means you will use your quota faster. Year on year, backbone costs have been decreasing, but monthly bills have gone up.. But I know, VZW and ATT are struggling… oh wait, no they aren’t. They have posted record quarters.

  • honourbound68

    here’s my take on the 4g pi$$ing war… i don’t care as long as
    - I can get 4g where I live and where I play
    - it doesn’t cost an arm, a leg and my first born
    - i’m not being throttled after 2 gb of unlimited data :)

  • sunrise

    Personally, I consider LTE the only real 4G. That would make Verizon as having the largest and fastest network. However, Verizon’s 3G is super slow in my opinion. So you better be sure you are in a strong LTE area with your Verizon 4G LTE phone, because when it switches to 3G it’s super slow.

    I think T-mobile has the fastest 3-3.5G network.

  • Alan Reboli

    I just got my Rezound (coming from Sprints Evo3D).. WiMax is shit. Just plain awful. I just did a speed test with my Rezound just got 28mb down and 7mb up. Also: I don’t need to activate my 4g coverage like I do with Sprint.

  • Darwin

    I would say Verizon has the largest real 4G network, but the fact that you drop down the their miserably slow 3G when you are out of LTE means I would rather stay with AT&T since I get almost LTE speeds everywhere as a backup.

  • ArticulateFool

    I could care less what each of these companies are calling their service.

    I pay for network performance. Any stride that improves this performance is welcome innovation to me.

    I am glad to see healthy competition advancing this industry. I hope it stays that way.

  • tROubLEd-One

    Who cares as long as it’s fast.

  • Jason

    Until someone delivers 100Mbps rolling or 1Gbps in an architecture that supports WLAN/radio/voice all in one isn’t 4G.

    Anyone who bought “4G” based on what the TV told them, and tells people they have “4G” “speed” is a sucker.

    4G isn’t just about data transmission speed (which carriers can’t even deliver half of the lowest requirement for a 4G network). That is one 17th of the requirement for a 4G network.

    7 rears from now people will laugh at people who who said they had 4g service, because they were too stupid to fact check a marketing major.

  • DaBombDiggity

    I lol at people and what they think is or isn’t 4G. Either, you go by the industry standards, meaning, none of these networks are 4G (LTE-Advanced, NOT LTE), or you gotta compare their speeds to see which is 4G or not. If Sprint’s WiMAX was considered 4G then no doubt is T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G. In the end, I care about how much I’m paying and the speed I’m getting, that’s why I’m happy with T-Mobile. Anyway, when the next generation of LTE is out, it’ll implement HSPA+ and LTE together. I can’t wait until T-Mobile finally rolls out LTE, and until then, I’m satisfied with my low rates and fast ass HSPA+. You do the math:
    T-Mobile: 84/42/21 mbps HSPA+ and LTE (soon?)
    AT&T: 14 mbps HSPA+ and LTE
    Sprint: EV-DO (3.1 mbps) or WiMAX or LTE
    Verizon: EV-DO (3.1 mbps) or LTE
    Notice the ‘or’s above, the CDMA networks unfortunately cannot combine the power of WiMAX/EV-DO and LTE because the three are not in the succession of GSM technology, not CDMA. Unless if they can produce battery killing handsets with both radios constantly running? LOL, the thought of a Sprint HTC Evo-doMAX LTE utilizing WiMAX, EV-DO, and LTE radios at once.

  • Jorge Vieira

    Verizon, for now, is the king in my eyes, even though I get choppy coverage for LTE when i do get it is super fast. The 3g it’s down right horrible but surprisingly gets the job done. I also have Att but don’t have a LTE device do i can’t comment. But i feel that they will pull ahead of Verizon in the long run. As for sprint the 4g Wimax actually had good service and i expect there LTE to be just as good eventually. Plus if they always keep the unlimited they will be hard to ignore.

    • cb2000a

      The 3g speeds on Verizon are painfully slow. Don’t really miss it at all. I like HSPA+.

  • Shadowlore

    I’m so sick of the ‘Largest 4G Network’ claims…. Until someone can ‘PROVE’ their claim, they just all need to shut the heck up.

    Now, if they REALLY want to be accurate.. one of them need to claim ‘The *ONLY* goblin killing network in the US!!!

    What’s that?? There are no goblins?? Guess they’re doing their job then, egh? :)

    (and hey, unlike the ‘Largest’ claim, it’s one that no one can disprove with fact ;)

  • slurms mckenzie

    the only one thats not 4g is that joke wiimax

    u suck sprint

  • moelsen8

    Umm Verizon. And no. At least Verizon’s 4G network is based upon the actual 4G standard.

  • http://youtube.com/user/jawckamoe Marcus

    I think HSPA+ should be considered 4G. I mean aren’t there different forms of 3G as well?

  • revs

    seen hspa phones blow lte phones away so theyre all 4g to me

  • BigCiX

    Well we all know att isn’t the largest or fastest. Not by being throttled at 2 gigs.

  • ceejay

    all i know is if i see one more ‘that was so 28 seconds ago’ commercial, I just might puke.

  • phil

    I really don’t give a rats ass about LTE or husp+… 3g in larger markets was plenty fast for most things. I would rather see carriers upgrade their crappy edge networks to 3g and boost the 3g speed in smaller markets. Phones also aren’t ready for “4g”. It is a battery drain for the average smartphone user and I’m guessing only 15% of all smartphone users actually do things on their phones that require the highspeed bandwidth. Instead of making the speed faster, app designers should be working on speed improvements within the app. My monthly bill goes toward network upgrades I seldom use or see to support larger markets where the average user is clueless about the upgrades.

    It’s just another spitting match marketing ploy between the competitors and the people who pay for the marketing wars, yet again get the shaft.

  • phil

    Heh, I called it husp+… shows you how much I really care…

  • dcdttu

    I had the Nexus on Verizon and now a Nexus on T-Mobile. Downloading on both is fast as can be, but I must say, the latency on LTE is virtually nonexistent. You REALLY notice a difference on LTE compared to HSPA+ when the data connection first starts. After having LTE, it seems like ages for my GSM Nexus to start a data connection.

    It’s fast, HSPA+, but the latency is obvious and makes it 3G for me.

    That said, my battery lasts all day!

  • Richard Yarrell

    Since 2009 i have been all over the place. I have experienced tmo in their young days. At&t as well as both sprint and verizon. I will admit it seems that GSM technology is much better than CDMA technology espically from an reception standpoint. I love my network and verizon the network is strong and all the best devices will always reside on the number one network.

    • squiddy20

      “I love my network and verizon the network is strong and all the best devices will always reside on the number one network” Wow. You were saying pretty much those exact same words of Sprint not even 6 months ago. Talk about blind fanboyism and jumping the bandwagon to the extreme…

  • VS

    Coming from Sprint, carrier pigeons and smoke signals would of been a faster form of communication than WiMAX. Horrible coverage, data speeds that might hit 3MB downstream if the stars aligned properly and battery sucking radio pretty much resigned me to their 3G service only (while still paying that 4G $10 add on).

    That being said, HSPA+ from T-Mo has been more than sufficient with consistant 8MB DL in the DFW area. With the current data caps in place, I cant see the point of faster speed without fear of being throttled a week into your plan.

    In addition, the battery life has been outstanding, usually draining the battery of my phone to 50% with moderate use and needing a full charge with heavy use. Even without using the soul sucking WiMAX 4G radio, my EVO 4G battery would need a charge from very mild use midday with CDMA 3G radio on.

    The latency is a noticable item of discussion though, as another poster mentioned. It might take 3-10 secs for a web page to pull up only because of the initial connection. After that, it’s up in 1-2 secs.

    I’ll take those numbers with a lower bill vs the hell that was WiMAX anyday.

  • Ed

    I think that they should just work on expanding the 3G network beyond what the coveradge Is now. It would be of more benifit to have more reliable coveradge than , oh wow my yahoo page uploaded .23 seconds faster. Ive been using virgin mobile (sprint) and been pleased even though u live in a not so good coveradge área for 3 G when im in 4grange its great.-htc evo 3-d. Thanks.