Apr 17 AT 4:50 PM Dustin Earley 66 Comments

The Big 4 shootout: Who has the fastest network speeds?


If you pay attention to the different ad campaigns that AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon keep in their everyday arsenal, chances are you’ve heard every single one claim they have the fastest network on the block. Whatever they use to calculate those claims, it doesn’t always translate into real world use for every individual on that network. So how could you possibly pinpoint who really does have the fastest network?

PC World has put eight different Android phones to the test, including a 3G device and a 4G device from each major carrier in the US. They selected 13 cities for their, “varying population densities, physical topography, and cellular environments.” Each network was tested at ten locations in each city, five times indoors, and five times outdoors.

When it comes to which carrier in the US posted the best 3G download speeds, T-Mobile took the crown. Thanks to HSPA+ 21, T-Mobile’s average 3G download speed was 3.84 Mbps.

T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 managed to keep a slim distance when it came to 4G, but AT&T and Verizon’s LTE networks couldn’t be held back. AT&T had the best download speeds, coming in at 9.12 Mbps. Verizon was a close second at 7.35.

The absolute worst carrier if you care about download speeds is Sprint. Their WiMax 4G test numbers were lower than T-Mobile’s 3G numbers. And their 3G numbers were enough to drive any sane man mad, at a pathetic 0.59 Mbps.

Of course these tests still don’t paint an entirely accurate picture of whose networks provides the fastest network speeds, but it does give you a good idea. What kind of speeds do you get with your service? Let us know in the comments.

3g test wireless_average_3g-11347821 wireless_average_speeds3-11348521 wireless_overall2-11348527

Source: PC World

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • spazby

    I guess it depends on where you are… In Los Angeles, WiMax will get me 6-9 download (peak of a little over 10) and 1-2 upload… The network has never slowed me down so not sure I would benefit if I switched to Verizon…

    • jonathan

      Do you think Dustin Earley wants you to leave Sprint for Verizon? If your WiMax speeds are that fast and you consistently get good service, then that’s great. I’m not sure if you would benefit from switching to Verizon, either. Why are you even considering Verizon?

      You know the point of the article wasn’t “which carrier is the best for everyone,” right? Network speeds and availability vary greatly by region. This article is just showing the results of a vaguely scientific study for the national average – which is relevant because all carriers claim to be the best or fastest network. They’re not advocating a switch to Verizon… but even if the point of the article WAS to suggest which carrier to use, wouldn’t it be T-Mo and AT&T for 3G and 4G speeds, respectively?

      I… I am so confused…

    • Austin

      I agree they should change some of those cities here in Columbus Ohio on sprint Wimax i average 8-10 mpbs down easy and coverage is pretty good they should come test here. I never use wifi no need to cause my Wimax is always fast, doesn’t kill my battery and we have unlimited data. Great combo if you ask me, at the best price.

  • boro09

    Finally a comprehensive and substantiated test! Glad to be on T-Mo!

  • revs

    GO T-MO

    • revs

      AND THIS WAS HSPA+21???????
      WHY NOT 42???

      • WlfHart

        HSPA+ 21 for 3G, HSPA+ 42 for 4G.

  • adam

    When I first got an LTE phone with Verizon the speeds were amazing. I was averaging about 20-25 mbps and in some places I was able to a whopping 40 mbps. However the network seems to have slowed way down as of late. I’m lucky if I hit 10 mbps down. I’m not sure if it’s because more people are getting LTE phones on Verizon. Maybe Verizon is throttling everything down.

    • Jarren

      It definitely depends oh where you are. At my house in DC I consistently get 25 down on Verizon. At work, which is stil in the greater dc metro area I only get about 8 down.

    • Derek

      Yea, I’ve noticed the same thing too. Massive dropoff in speeds lately. It sucks. I have the Rezound and the speeds seem to have dropped off a lot right after they pushed out the latest OTA at the end of January. I think they put a different radio/modem file in there to throttle people down.

      I cant substantiate this because I have no way to revert back to the old radio/modem files without rooting and flashing an old version of the entire ROM (Rez has no S-OFF yet). That’s a lot of trouble to go through so I havent yet. But if these speeds keep getting worse, then I will at least try it or ditch them altogether. Some days their speeds are only 2M down and 2M up. Usually it averages 5M down and 5-6M up now. Not terrible but still, In the beginning of January I was getting 28M down 14M up every where and any time.

  • surg3d

    Sprint customer here and, sad as those numbers are, they do seem to reflect what I experience. :-( It’s wifi to wifi for me…

    • thel0nerang3r

      If you really wan to be disappointed, try Sprint in Las Vegas.. last time I visited, speed net was showing a whoping 52Kbps, not a typo. Though at home I’ve gotten Wimax speeds of upto 8MBps

      • revs

        it wasnt just sprint i visited in nov and t moble and att also got nothing like 500k
        theres somthin goin on ther elol

  • Bk553

    Now divide the speed by the price paid/cap limit and Sprint wins. My connection is slower on Sprint than it was on AT&T, but I don’t drop calls anymore and it’s liberating not having to worry about caps.

    • garet

      Um no even throttled T-mobiles speeds are just as good as Sprints Unlimited slow is still slow and sucks here is the fastest I have gotten on T-mo usually its 10-16

    • http://facebook.com/jestertx2001 Jesse Moreno

      A very good point worth factoring in.


    South east Louisiana: New Orleans and lower areas.
    Verizon 4g lte: slowest speeds, 14.xx Mbs. Fastest, 56.xx mbs
    Average over 35.xx Mbs

    • HEATH

      And I have unlimited 4g lte

      • nunyazz

        That’s what I see also, more time than not I get 26+mbps on VZW in the BTR area.

        • HEATH

          I live in golden meadow, hour and a half south east of n.o. and I’ve had 4g for about 4 or 5 weeks now. Slowest is like I said 35 Mbs + but way fewer users down here compared to B.R. or N.O. port fourchon (which is practically in the gulf) has the same speeds, only about 10 mins from where I live. It’s just crazy. And a true 4g network consists of 100+ Mbs mobile and 1gps stationary as per IMT standards… So its only going to get better from here.

  • Cole

    I have sprint and it is definitely not as bad as described. I get atleast 6mbps download on only two bars of 4g. So obviously it doesn’t paint the whole picture.

  • Ps3y3Ops

    No question that 3G on VZW is ridiculously slow. On the other hand my 4G speeds beat my AT&T DSL speeds consistently :) I’m always at least in the high 20s down and high teens up.

  • glennw

    I’m on Sprint and I regularly get faster 4G download speeds than from their test. My Sprint 3G experience, on the other hand, seems more in-line with their results.

    • mattcoz

      Same here, when I have 4G access here in Chicago(which isn’t very often) I get very good speeds, but 3G is almost unusable.

  • aranea

    In San Diego these 3G comparison between T-Mo and ATT holds up too.

  • Droidberg

    damn,you go AT&T.. i service myself so i can care less about thier customer service.. its all in the numbers and real World experiences.. and at&t is not a disapointment.. gotta lolz @ Sprint though,thats just sad. :)-

    • Richard

      Did you just say you “service yourself”?

  • Droidberg

    0_0 .. .. maybe. ..

  • that guy

    After this I can’t believe people still praise sprint. The proof is there folks. That carrier is a joke with dial up speeds and non existing 4g

  • rasterX

    In most large metropolitan areas, speeds are dependent on the size of the user base, as much as the network quality. AT&T’s 3G network is currently overloaded under the weight of iOS users, while T-Mobile’s bandwidth to subscriber ratio is much better (often pays to be the underdog). Rather than dip into their huge coffers and build out infrastructure, AT&T chose to absorb their competition (or tried to). Wait until an LTE iPhone is released and you will see AT&T and Verizon’s 4G speeds drop dramatically.

  • snowbdr89

    Here in slc Utah I average around 14 mbps but some parts im getting up around 35 to 40 mbps with my vzw nexus. : )

    • Richard Yarrell

      Here in New York Verizon had done well with LTE. Each handset on Vzw network seems to perform differently. I am happy with my Gnex too.

      • squiddy20

        “Each handset on Vzw network seems to perform differently” Ummmm… DUH???? You seriously expected all the different phones from all the different manufacturers to perform the *exact* same? You obviously have no clue what the “real world” is like.

      • Steam

        You don’t own a GNex, Richard. Stop with the lies and fantasies. You own a TV that you found in a dumpster, yet you call everything that isn’t what you currently imagine yourself to have “useless”. You go WAY out of your way to try to tell people that you have whatever you seen at the Bowery Mission because you think it makes you important, intelligent, and wealthy and you expect us to believe that you have a $700 smartphone that does impossible things like using almost no storage for your “100 applications, 2000 pictures, 41mp4 movies and still have 22.13gb of space left” http://androidandme.com/2012/02/opinions/mwc-predictions-what-we-expect-from-htc/
        In that same thread, you yourself said, and I quote exactly, “Life is great knowing that people care so much about my devices.” What devices? The EVO the outreach program gave you? You just tell people on the internet that you own such-and-such in the despreate hope that someone will; think that your not just some hood-rat street urchin. You failed miserably.
        B*tch, please. The only person who believes you is you. Back to that basement with you, Richard.

        • poop joggs

          bahahaha outreach program. hahah made me bust out laughing

  • Nathan D.

    Dam sprint you lost in every test,I feel sorry for anyone on sprint right now and whoknew AT&T LTE was a bit faster then Verizon LTE network, maybe it is the fact that barely any one on AT&T is using it right now.

    • thel0nerang3r

      I have Sprint, the only place where it has frustrated me has been in Las Vegas, it’s near unusable. Everywhere else, pictures upload/download fine. Google maps works, emails go through. I’ve done music streaming from Play Music just fine, as well as youtube videos. What do you use that the speed makes that big of a difference?
      I can think of a couple of uses where faster speed would be nice, but over no a big deal to me.

  • SanzaBlancoAkA2C

    Makes my choice to go with an unlocked GSM Samsung Galaxy Nexus for use on T-Mobile look all the more better.


    People posting their anecdotal evidence need to stop.
    This is a comprehensive test across 13 cities. Your personal milage doesn’t mean anything.

    • thel0nerang3r

      It does to each person individually. Most people spend most of their time withing 100 Mi of home. So, unless you live in say Miami, the speed that is reported there means nothing to you. I’ve never been to Seattle… so whatever speed coverage is there means squat to me me.

  • http://www.jimtravis.com jimtravis

    I currently have cell service with all 4 major carriers. I will be dropping some, and am testing all 4 in the parts of Boston I go frequently. Bottom line is the champion depends on where I am in the city. The only reliable, fast data connection I can receive in my house (historically a cell dead zone) is Sprint 4g WiMax. LTE is unreliable / slow in my house, and 3G on the other carriers ranges from a joke to non-existent. Outside, there are locations where the Verizon LTE screams (faster than my home ISP connection), and other places where it is slow to can’t find. Inside the subway to check on live bus schedules, T-Mobile is the way to go. There are even some of my regular locations where AT&T 3G is the speed champ.

    In terms of pure speed, my fastest download speed is with Verizon LTE. However, some of my main locations, including my house, receive a much more reliable, higher speed data connection with Sprint WiMax which tops out at about half the top speed of Verizon LTE in those few sections of the city where they all receive good coverage – the Fenway Park area is one of those locations. I will take a 5 to 10 Mbs reliable Sprint WiMax connection over a 10Mbs to 20 Mbs LTE connection that unfortunately is not very fast, and not available in some key sections of the city for me.

  • BigCiX

    Over here in my area I’m lucky if I get 2 mbps with my so called 4G device with at&t.

  • Max.Steel

    Where is Richard to defend Sprint’s pathetic excuse of a network??

  • jamal adam

    I’m proud of T-Mobile. Now all they need is to expand their coverage and they will be in a good position.

  • Gir

    I’m lucky that I have one of the new markets that came about during the winter. Right when I got my G-Nex, around my city and I get 20.61 Mbps down and 8.49 Mbps up. And that what is currently tethered at home.

  • Vance

    Can’t wait to get back on t-mobile in 7 days!

  • djembeman

    What’s the deal!?? They said they tested 3G and 4G, only show 3G results and call T-Mobile the winner??? So much for a non-biased study.

    • garet

      T-mobile 3g Winner AT&T 4G winner read whole article

  • KRS_Won

    I travel way to much to switch from anything but Verizon. But, as much as I pay, I should get speeds that rival my coverage =)

  • noojAb

    It would be helpful to show the relative sizes of each network.

    T-mobile’s 3g is the best 3g, but how does it compare in size to say ATT’s 4g network or verizon’s 4g network?

  • Tonedabone

    Going to have to agree with the Sprint vs AT&T. I’m in S.Jersey, and Sprint is terrible yet I had it for over 10yrs. When I switched to AT&T a few months ago, I realized why I didn’t make the switch before, …. I didn’t know what I was missing! I was so used to Sprint’s slow data signal I thought it was fine. Calls rarely dropped, so I really just lived on wifi for data. Now on AT&T, I can update phone anytime, Facebook, email, web surf, with no problem at all. I would always worry about signal whenever I was out and about on Sprint, now I don’t ever think about it. Some say “well at least with Sprint, I don’t have to worry about going over with my data cause it’s unlimited”. I see it like this …if you can’t run your apps, surf web and get data when u need it …U ARE LIMITED! What good is unlimited data, if you never have access to it?

    • James

      This is the EXACT reason why I too dropped Sprint. No point in having unlimited data if the data is unusable. Since switching to Verizon, I’ve had consistent 3G speeds averaging to about between 900kbps – 1mb. I’d be lucky if I could break 300kbps with Sprint…. On a good day.

  • Derek

    I have only had Verizon’s 4G LTE for three months now and the speeds have dropped off considerably in that time. I know its because they are pushing more people to 4G by only offering 4G capable smartphones now, but the dropoff I’ve seen is ridiculous. From 28/14 down to 5/7 in three months time is utterly disgusting. At 5/7 I’d be better off switching back to ATT HSPA+, I was getting these speeds before I switched.

    • Derek

      I’ve also noticed the ping time has gone way up too. It used to ping in 50-60ms and now its like 150-200ms.

  • morphiend

    exactly why i’ll be leaving sprint when the contract for my evo4g runs out. the evo4glte isn’t enough to keep me around. i guess we’ll see if sprint actually has lte up where in can use it in two years at which point i’d consider coming back but for now i’m probably going to try verizon.

  • Jimmy Johansen

    I guess it depends on the area you’re in. In NYC I have no problems with my EVO 4G on Sprint. The WiMax sucks indoors but we knew that already. Otherwise it’s quick and unlimited. I have never had to limit app use due to signal… maybe due to battery but that’s all.

  • bellken

    pcworld.com has the article up, and, they show their results for each test city.

  • yankeesusa

    I don’t have any problems in orlando with sprint, unless i’m in one of the theme parks. then the speeds go down as much as this article says or even slower. I really hope sprint steps it up. Only reason I’m with them is for unlimited, low rates and I rarely have dropped calls.

  • kjy2010

    Not certain where these numbers were pulled from. Anandtech’s review showed Verizon 4G at 30Mb down and 15Mb up (verified by a friend in WNY on his Rezound). Why do ppl writing articles make numbers up just to get paid $$ by the carrier that pays them the most?!


    Location Location.. Period

  • elitebattlefield

    I’m in Houston, TX 77035. I get 16 to 23 mbps on my HTC Amaze 4G. Just before switching to T-Mobile I was with Sprint. In the same location listed above I got 2-5 mbps on my Sprint Evo 3D. However, when I lived in zip code 77063 when I was still with Sprint, I got 6-9 on my Evo 3D

  • Roamdeus

    I’m good wit T-Mobile 5.5 up 2.2 down on my nexus s Staten island ny

  • Eludium-Q36

    I ran the Speedtest app in the Northern VA area (Reston/Herndon) today (overcast, rain) and with my Galaxy S2 on a Wimax connection I clocked 12Mbps down, nuff said.

  • leo

    The max I ever got with my galaxy s2 with T-Mobile was 22mbps down and 6mbps up in the minneapolis metro area.

  • Splendiferous Pete

    I love the sprint customers posting their one speedtest result that is higher and acting like it refutes the whole article. Do you guys understand what the word “average” means?