Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top Fastest Mobile Networks 2011

Fastest Networks Mobile 2011

With smartphone innovation moving at a breakneck pace, new tablets hitting the market all the time, and an increasing number of people using cellular modems and mobile hotspots to get online on the go, access to speedy data coverage is becoming more essential every day.

But you shouldn't believe the hype: All "4G" is not the same. In a 21-city test across the United States, we found that Verizon's new 4G LTE network is much faster than other mobile Web options, with speeds that often exceed home Internet connections.

There's no question that 4G is spreading across the nation, but there's a lot of confusion over what 4G exactly is. AT&T, MetroPCS, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless aren't just using varied technologies; sometimes they're implementing the same technology very differently.

So we sent six drivers on a cross-country road trip in Ford cars with lots of mobile phones and custom software designed by network testing firm Sensorly to see just how fast these 4G Internet connections really are. (See How We Tested for more details.)

Top Fastest Mobile Networks 2011

Last year we tested with laptops. For our second annual test, we switched to phones, to more accurately reflect how Americans are using the mobile Internet. According to research firm NPD, as of the first quarter of 2011, more than half of all new mobile phones purchased in the U.S. were smartphones, and analysts have projected that will grow.

We didn't test voice quality or dropped calls, which we've already surveyed, as part of our annual Readers' Choice Awards. The tests for this story were all about mobile Internet.

We ran more than 140,000 tests in 21 cities. Not all the networks were available in all the cities, as you'll see on the individual city pages. Most notably, cities generally have either Cricket or MetroPCS as a local option.

We didn't test coverage either, but our technology partner Sensorly does. Head over to the company's website, or download the Sensorly app from the Android Market to see crowdsourced coverage maps for all the major U.S. mobile carriers, enhanced with the data from our test drives.
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Bear in mind, mobile networks are constantly changing, and almost always for the better. And because speeds vary based on tower location, network load, device used, and even the weather, we can't predict performance in a specific location; rather, we're giving a snapshot of a few days' worth of usage in several locations across a metro area.


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