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Jul 24, 2013

Fastest Cell Phone Data Network

PCWorld had this story on the data speed of cell phone networks in their final issue. (The final print issue of a mainstream PC magazine as far as I know.) Anyway, the above link is to the online version of the story. They did a number of live tests in about a dozen cities. And the winner is…. AT&T!

For all the crap AT&T has gotten from the mainstream tech media, it is nice to see just how good their network is based on a little empirical data. After my last contract with AT&T expired, I decided to give Verizon a try since my entire family is on that network. Well that has turned out to be good and bad.

First the good. Certainly Verizon has the best support in the business. From what I can tell, phone support is about the same. However, the Verizon stores seem much better organized and staffed than the AT&T stores. Everyone I have ever talked to seems very knowledgeable. In addition, their call and data plans are much easier to understand. Plus they seem to be much more geek friendly. It seems like all of their smart phones can function as a wifi hotspot. Whereas with AT&T, you have to get one of the more expensive plans to get that feature. In addition, the AT&T wifi hotspot feature always worked poorly for me unless I attached my device to my laptop via the USB port. With Verizon, the LTE works great and so do the hotspots.

Now the bad. When you are in range, Verizon LTE works great. However, when you start getting just 20 or 30 miles outside the metro area, things start to get dicey. My sister lives east of Brighton, CO and my data reception out there is very poor. On AT&T my signal might degrade from LTE to 3G to Edge, but I usually had something. On Verizon I go from LTE to zip. And when I travel to my parents home near Alamosa, CO, things are worse. In a 5 mile radius of Alamosa I get 3G. Once I leave that zone, zip, nothing, no data at all. Before I switched, I am pretty sure I had LTE at my parents house in the middle of nowhere.

So will I switch back to AT&T? I was thinking yes definitely until I read the PC World article. With T-Mobile’s coverage map and month to month plan, I may give them a try. I plan to do some tests with a prepaid phone at Thanksgiving. Of course, I could always just buy a phone outright and avoid the commitment on AT&T as well. We will see. Now that I have a couple of tablets with LTE support I don’t know how I lived without one before. So for me whatever I do, the data comes first! :)

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