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.
In 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”?