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Wireless Networking United States Hardware

Testing 3G Networks Across the US 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.
PCWorld recently tested the 3G networks of AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint in 13 different cities across the US. They've now posted the results, which show that Sprint and Verizon are neck-and-neck for reliability, while AT&T has consistently higher upload rates. From the article: "Across more than 20 testing locations in each of the 13 cities we tested, Verizon had an average download speed of 951 kbps. Verizon demonstrated good reliability, too; the network was available at a reasonable and uninterrupted speed in 89.8 percent of our tests. Sprint's 3G network delivered a solid connection in 90.5 percent of our 13-city tests. Sprint's average download speed of 808 kbps across 13 cities wasn't flashy (at that speed, a 1MB file downloads in 10 seconds), but dependability is an important asset. The Sprint network performed especially well, both in speed and in reliability, in our test cities in the western part of the United States. The AT&T network's 13-city average download speed in our tests was 812 kbps. Its average upload speed was 660 kbps. Reliability was an issue in our experience of the AT&T system: Our testers were able to make a connection at a reasonable, uninterrupted speed in only 68 percent of their tests." What have you noticed about the various carriers in your city?
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Testing 3G Networks Across the US

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  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:49AM (#28586099)

    So based on the results of this test, I think we can expect commercials from all three carriers claiming that they are the fastest* 3g network around with the best reliability**.

    Even as an owner of an iphone who knew what he was getting, Apple/ATT's commercials really get under my skin with their claims regarding the speed/capabilities of the phone. Of course, they get away with it with a 0.3 mS flash of text that informs us that the performance was artificially shortened. Comcast is another company whose commercials strike me as pure lies and misinformation based on a grain of truth***.

    *For some definitions of fast
    **The network will reliably not cause your phone to collapse into a singularity.
    ***Results from Brooklyn Bridge Sales LLC.

    • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated@@@ema...il> on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:59AM (#28586141) Journal
      When I had AT&T, reliability was a problem. First, the 3G network wasn't as mature as it is now, so upload/download speeds were only slightly greater than EDGE (usually 400 kbps or so). Second, and most concerning, was that I frequently had issues getting HSDPA service; I was often on the EDGE (2G) network, which was disappointing considering how much I would have been paying for it.

      Needless to say, I only had AT&T for less than the 14-day trial period. I tested all of this on a Treo 750.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sycodon (149926)

        I have AT&T for my cell phone. Even though I live in a major urban area, it drops calls all the time. Their service and coverage sucks.

        • by spineboy (22918)

          I live in Los Angeles, and have AT&T, and rarely if ever, have dropped calls. I get good coverage everywhere.

          Now what are we supposed to do with this anecdotal data? The question seems poorly thought out.

        • Not sure if this is your issue, but I had the same problem and I live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. They tend to have excellent coverage. The problem was with my sim card. The contacts erode or become corroded or the card itself becomes warped. Replacing it resolved my drop calls issue. The AT&T folks may squawk but you can usually get a replacement for free if you suspect it's faulty.
    • by Luscious868 (679143) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @10:30AM (#28586265)

      Comcast is another company whose commercials strike me as pure lies and misinformation based on a grain of truth

      As a general rule of thumb never trust claims made in an advertisement. One of the great things about the Internet is that there are a plethora of sites out there that you can turn to get a better idea of how products and services really work. I rarely buy an expensive product or service these days without checking it out first.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @11:34AM (#28586545)

      Comcast is another company whose commercials strike me as pure lies and misinformation based on a grain of truth

      Well, the problem is they advertise "speed" and "availability", neither of which are really decent metrics. Speed is a crap metric because it's a scalar (math) quantity, and most often is measured by peak, rather than average, or worst-case. And "Availability" depends entirely on the service level agreement. If the power goes out, does that count toward availability? No, because "they" can't control it. Routine maintenance on their network? Nope. Lightning strike? Nah. So they can say almost whatever they want and get away with it because of some clever word-play. You'll be careful to note that in these endless commercials about high speed internet from any company they're careful to never put any number in it except the phone number to call. So it's not so much that they're lying -- it's really more that they're speaking sweet nothings, which is perfectly legal (and disingenuous).

      Us geeks know that network performance isn't a scalar (math) quantity. Bigger numbers don't mean shit. It's the matrix of bandwidth (in bytes), latency (in milliseconds), packet loss (a percentage), all averaged over a long enough time-frame (hour, day, week, month, or billing cycle) to account for all systemic variables (bandwidth caps, network load averages, etc) is what matters.

      I suppose you could derive from this information a weighted index, but it would still be largely useless to the average consumer. The problem is when you get down to brass tacks, different users have different needs. A heavy game player's internet needs will likely be low bandwidth, but low latency. A few milliseconds of extra time, or a few lost packets, will make that user's experience very poor. Someone who has an internet-TV has a large need for bandwidth, but latency is not an issue (even if the transfer is delayed by hours it might not matter). And then there's the little old grandma who doesn't do anything but check her e-mail and read CNN. If it wasn't for latency problems, she could be using a modem and never know the difference between either. Especially if she installed Vista -- god, network latency is nothing when it takes 8 seconds to render the downloaded page.

      Comcast delivers an acceptable experience to a certain class of internet users and has crafted their service accordingly. The problem is that this service isn't tiered or can be adapted to serve several different markets. There is only one service, one market, and if you don't like it--you may not have any other options. Comcast is constrained by a need to maximize profitability, minimize costs, and is using an infrastructure which they are unwilling (or unable) to modify to deliver an acceptable experience to a larger user-base. There's no competition in most of its markets, and hence no reason to invest in doing so. The lack of competition ensures that Comcast's prices will continue to inflate while the number of customers who receive an acceptable experience will fall.

      The bandwidth caps being imposed now are not the (direct) result of TV-over-internet competing with its internet offering, and instead the logical result of a lack of competition with its internet service. Any business in the same position and market(s) as Comcast would be doing the exact same thing, because Comcast doesn't exist to bring internet to the masses, so we can all celebrate the information age and live in peace, tranquility, and gigabytes of free porn. They exist to make money for their shareholders.

      And the reason why service is shit in so many parts of this country isn't because of Evil BigCorp and their profiteering ways, but rather;

      a) Infrastructure costs are a very high barrier to entry into the market. The United States is a big place with a low population density (taken as a whole) compared to other geographical regions like, say, Japan. The cost per customer is higher because there's a lot more wire and

      • You'll be careful to note that in these endless commercials about high speed internet from any company they're careful to never put any number in it except the phone number to call. So it's not so much that they're lying -- it's really more that they're speaking sweet nothings, which is perfectly legal (and disingenuous).

        I have a big problem with ComCast's ads and junk mail. One thing that bothers me is their ads saying they're faster than DSL. Sure theoretically cable can be faster, but on a shared line,

  • Verizon wins (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lulfas (1140109) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @10:05AM (#28586165)
    Looking at the charts, Verizon wins pretty handily unless you're in specific cities looking for a phone. They are the fastest downloader in 7 of the 13 spots, and most reliable in 7 of the 13 spots. Kind of funny that the home of the iPhone doesn't manage a decent reliability in any city besides Boston. Only thing they really lose on is upload speeds. Although, it is weird they didn't test in Los Angeles.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm not sure any of them really "wins". They all show trouble maintaining even "one 9" in reliability - in fact only one of them made that - and just barely at that.

      It doesn't surprise me in the least though, as I live in a city of 120,000 - in a housing development, not out in the boonies, and right up the street from my house is "no signal" even for voice calls. Coverage and reliability on these carriers in the US is always a problem and with scores between 68% and 90.5% all you can really infer from th
    • by Solandri (704621)
      I tossed the numbers into a spreadsheet and figured out the median stats. Kinda sucks that each carrier wins one category: Carrier: download / upload / reliabiliy Verizon: 909 / 415 / 87% Sprint: 794 / 391 / 90% AT&T: 745 / 660 / 82% I started weighting it by population of the metro area, but they're missing several major population areas and their samples probably represent a few towers, not the entire metro area. So I realized it would be of dubious value. But it does give a boost to Verizon (due
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075)
        The problem with NYC skewing the averages is that on average most people in the US aren't in NYC.
  • In a mobile culture like America's, we live a significant portion of our lives on the road. On holidays like today, we aren't, like 19th century Europeans, stuck in our hovels waiting for Ebenezer Scrooge to hand deliver a Christmas duck. Rather, we get out and drive, drive, drive all over this great, goddamned country.

    So there's only so far 3G networks can take us if the coverage is only within city limits. When our cars are hooked up to cellular networks for data services, what good is it to have exceptional coverage in town when you're 100 miles from the next town? Empty spaces and big skies just prove how big this place really is, and it's all about living and moving and getting out there and getting to the next place that is what it's all about, man.

    Get me some coverage in Yosemite. Death Valley. Appalachia. Crater Lake. Yellowstone. Shasta. Mt. McKinley. Grand Canyon. From Blaine, WA to Miami, FL. San Diego, CA to Eastport, ME. Cover it all and let us get on with really living in this great big country of ours.

    • I have to agree with this.

      I have 3g where I work, but not where I live and rarely where I travel. At home I have a choice between at&t and verizon and both have speeds close to dial-up. This article is fine if you stay in one area most of the time, but many of us don't. I want to know if I'm going to stay connected for 300mi drive I take every couple weeks.

      • by bluemonq (812827)

        But you have to wonder, if a carrier were to have terrible coverage in the city, would it be reasonable to expect that the in-between stuff is horrible as well?

        • But you have to wonder, if a carrier were to have terrible coverage in the city, would it be reasonable to expect that the in-between stuff is horrible as well?

          Maybe, maybe not. Structures like buildings block airwaves, so larger cities have to have more towers in order to cover the same area. However in rural areas that's scarcely populated it may not be cost effective to erect enough towers for good coverage.

          Falcon

    • by satsuke (263225) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @10:29AM (#28586253)

      While to believe the commercials from the larger players, there will never be absolutely seamless coverage across the nation because ..

      1. There are places nobody lives (or it's economically unfeasible to cover)
      2. Transmit powers are 1/12 of what they were in the analog era
      3. They can't just throw a tower up anywhere

      Back when analog bag phones were the norm, I never found anyplace without coverage .. why? Because on analog they had a nominal 3 watt transmit power on the phone, which let you have towers dozens of miles apart and still get a reliable signal. Today's mobiles operate at .25 of a watt or less, and since the 3G spec devices currently at or becoming the norm are based on CDMA technology (CDMA or WCDMA/HS?PA), the transmit power will only go down based on the load of the tower. (Under CDMA, the transmit power decreases when the load rises, lowering the noise floor and allowing more devices on the tower, with the net effect of creating islands of service if the network has hot spots and they don't plan accordingly).

      As far as towers and stuff are concerned, I remember reading an article from upstate new york about a stretch of state highway that had pristine views, and a very high mortality rate in the winter because nobody had cell service up that way. The local government bodies sued and cajoled the cell carriers to build coverage, but wouldn't let them put the tall towers up to allow service in an economically feasible way. Net result, no coverage and more death, but the view was still great.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) *

        The local government bodies sued and cajoled the cell carriers to build coverage, but wouldn't let them put the tall towers up to allow service in an economically feasible way. Net result, no coverage and more death, but the view was still great.

        It's interesting to compare that attitude (on both the part of government and the providers) to how AT&T was originally created and managed by the Federal Government. Universal coverage was mandated, as were QOS standards, and the old AT&T put in service to all kinds of places that weren't remotely "economically feasible". That was the price of their monopoly, and by and large they lived up to that end of the bargain.

        Of course, there were a lot of things our government handled more intelligently

        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          AT&T was originally created and managed by the Federal Government

          Come on. They regulated and allowed it to operate as a de facto monopoly, but there's no sane way you could twist the facts of history and claim they created AT&T. Prior to 1885, AT&T was called Bell Telephone, which was named after its founder Alexander Graham Bell. Perhaps you've heard of him.

    • That's exactly what this new network is for [slashdot.org], where you have good normal cell or wifi coverage, it will use that, outside that coverage, it will be using the satellite.

      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        Yeah, great. Let's hear it for an additional 500msec (that's half a second) signal delay while your communication makes a 44K mile round trip to geosync orbit and back.
        • ...no signal, nothing? What's your solution at that point?

              My guess is, a lot of people will go for the service if it is affordable enough. Just another option when you have no cell or wifi coverage, using the same handset.

        • Yeah, great. Let's hear it for an additional 500msec (that's half a second) signal delay while your communication makes a 44K mile round trip to geosync orbit and back.

          "Ray, the sponge migrated about a foot and a half."

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I was in Yosemite for the last week, and my blackberry had no connection (T-Mobile). My friends had the rest of the big carriers. AT&T (iPhone) had antenna coverage but dropped almost every call within the first minute after connection. Verizon (Razr2) would show no connectivity but we could still make calls out and have them stay connected for 10-15 minutes (we ended up calling our wives/families in shifts on the verizon phone). The Sprint (Samsung flip) phone had data and sms/mms but couldn't make a c
    • I'm sure the wacko-environmentalist will do anything they can to keep the 3g towers out of Yosemite, Death Valley and other "wilderness" places. Even if they make the towers look like trees, I'm sure there are some goofy regulations to keep "progress" out of these areas. Not to mention the payoffs the cellular carriers would have to pay to federal, state & local officials to get "permission" to install these. It's expensive, and they have to look at the cost vs benefit to install towers in places like
    • I actually had AT&T service at Plateau Point, 6 miles down the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago. It was spotty, but I was able to receive a call and send a few texts. I guess you can take that one off your list. ;)
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by dlevitan (132062)

      Get me some coverage in Yosemite. Death Valley. Appalachia. Crater Lake. Yellowstone. Shasta. Mt. McKinley. Grand Canyon. From Blaine, WA to Miami, FL. San Diego, CA to Eastport, ME. Cover it all and let us get on with really living in this great big country of ours.

      No. Please no more coverage in Yosemite or death valley or any other part of the "great outdoors". I go to these places to get away from everything - not to listen to some stupid idiot blabbering away on his cell phone. The only legitimate use of cell phones in parks is emergencies. The only way I'd be in agreement with cell phone companies providing coverage in national parks/forests is if they charge $100/minute for calls except 911, which would be routed to the local ranger station. They can even do a 50

      • No. Please no more coverage in Yosemite or death valley or any other part of the "great outdoors". I go to these places to get away from everything - not to listen to some stupid idiot blabbering away on his cell phone.

        I may say the same about voice communications but not for data. I'd love to be able to hike in the "great outdoors" with my camera and when my cards got full be able to upload the photos to my server. I'd like to do the same thing when I'm offshore scuba diving. Sending data could prove us

    • Get me some coverage in Yosemite. Death Valley. Appalachia. Crater Lake. Yellowstone. Shasta. Mt. McKinley. Grand Canyon. From Blaine, WA to Miami, FL. San Diego, CA to Eastport, ME. Cover it all and let us get on with really living in this great big country of ours.

      Oh, I agree. I love hiking, scuba diving, and photography and I'd love to be able to upload my photos to a server while out hiking or after I surface from a dive.

      Falcon

  • So crap speeds? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So Australia actually has significantly faster 3G networks than America... Wow!

    • by walshy007 (906710)
      and likely with significantly better 3g coverage too.
      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        Not really. Compare a coverage map for Telestra [gsmworld.com], Australia's carrier with by far the widest coverage, and a map of Verizon's coverage [verizonwireless.com].
        • by walshy007 (906710)

          there seems to be some gigantic gaps when enhanced services bit is highlighted from verizon, I'm sure out west the population might be sparse enough for them to not care, but still, eastern spots have people there.

          and also, you've forgotten something, where do people typically live?

          Your link [gsmworld.com] compared with, Where aussies live. [eb.com] Notice that in order to not get 3g coverage, you basically have to be more than about 200km+ into absolute nothingness of desert, that's an effort.(alternatively just standing near

          • by Dun Malg (230075)

            and also, you've forgotten something, where do people typically live?

            No, that' was entirely my point. The original assertion was that Australia has better coverage, when realistically it doesn't have any better coverage once you get a certain distance from civilization than the US does. The only difference is that in the US, the pockets of "nowhere" tend to be scattered, whereas the pocket of nowhere in Australia is essentially one big chunk there in the middle. Same thing, though. northern Nevada and southeastern California are about the equivalent of central Australia. It'

          • by ncc05 (913126)
            The eastern US gaps on the Verizon map correspond with population gaps, so I don't see what the problem is. A good example in the Verizon map is northern Maine. Most of that area is underpopulated and privately owned by paper/logging companies. You can't even drive there without authorization, and the roads you do drive in are mostly dirt tracks dominating by logging trucks. For northern New York, the main gap looks like the Adirondack area, again pretty underpopulated. Likewise for the NH and VT gaps.
    • So Australia actually has significantly faster 3G networks than America... Wow!

      Yeah, set faces to stun. Australia also has only 20 million people living almost completely on one coast. Show me consistent signal in the Outback, and you'll have something to crow about.

  • by areusche (1297613) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @10:18AM (#28586213)
    This information is useless unless we as consumers can get to use our service to its fullest. I don't care if I have 5 solid meg wireless connection up and down if I fill up my monthly quota of 5gb data transfer. If the carriers were more transparent about the softcap I think everyone would appreciate it. Say something like "We have a 5gb limit on our service. This means that if you exceed 5gb of data consumption in a billing cycle your internet speed will be slowed down to 200kbps." To seriously believe this is still going on today confuses me to whits end.
    • by IorDMUX (870522)
      Hmm. My 3G data plan from Verizon for my Blackberry Storm is unlimited... Unlimited, as in, no small-print 5Gb (or GB or gb or whatever) limit and no bandwidth caps or extra data fees or whatever. (This is quite important, as the BB Storm lacks WiFi capability, so all of my data goes out over the EV-DO 1x connection.

      My 5-month old loves taking walks in his stroller while I have Pandora streaming music to us, and I no longer need to worry about exorbitant SMS or MMS fees as I can e-mail whatever I want,
      • by IorDMUX (870522)

        The only limitation is that it is not an iPhone.

        Just to clarify, I am no Apple fanboy. I just wished to point out how horrible is the RIM operating system for things like multitasking (having Google Maps open while I check an e-mail) or even Javascript. I'd be even happier if Verizon would get off of their collective rear ends and push for an Android based phone, but they have expressed a clear lack of interest in such progress, recently.

        It comes down to signal quality or phone quality. You can either have a phone that can do anything (as long as i

    • I just checked Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T's $60 mobile broadband plans, and all three specify a 5 gig limit right in plain sight. You don't even have to read the fine print or the legalese. This might have been a problem in the past, but for new customers it shouldn't be.

  • My results on ATT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Savior_on_a_Stick (971781) <robertfranz@gmail.com> on Sunday July 05, 2009 @10:22AM (#28586235)

    I use an HTC - ATT Tilt branded smartphone.
    I'd like to point out that the testing methodology is not remotely suited to use in selecting a carrier.

    Average is useless.

    Verizon's has coverage that is far and away the fastest in areas not within major metropolitan areas, whereas ATT does not.

    Sprint has traditionally been known as Highway Wireless, meaning that they tend to have excellent coverage along interstate highways, but when veering more than a mile or two from the highway in search of a late night fuel up, you'll lose signal much more frequently than with Verizon.

    In the Portland Oregon metro area. Verizon does have the most granular coverage, and ATT has the fastest HSPDA speeds.
    It should be noted that hspda speeds are significantly higher than vanilla 3g, and if speed is your primary criterion, 3g only phones are out of the running.

    Granular coverage notwithstanding, ATT has the best voice and data coverage in my employer's physical locations in Portland.

    However, my experiences do agree with the report with respect to ATT data dropouts.
    The reason for the dropsouts seems to be prioritization of voice traffic over data at peak times.

    ALL of the carriers have issues with capacity during peak times - like 5pm rush hour.
    Because of the tight convergence of cell using driver along major arterials, and the towers that serve them, it's not unusual to drop a call when moving from cell to cell.
    Data is no different in this regard, but added is the fact that consumers are more sensitive to inability to place a call than they are to data not flowing, hence the prioritization of voice.

    On my commute route,

    • by Dun Malg (230075)

      Average is useless.

      Yeah, when I see averages like this, I am reminded of a report I read on world population growth. It said the average age of the world's population is 26.4 years. It's a perfectly cromulent calculation for tracking long term shifts in birth rate, but it does say squat about how old any individual I meet will be. Same thing here with 3G speed. If AT&T's average bit rate went up by a significant amount over last year, you could confidently say their 3G data network is improving.... but I would still have

  • So the numbers verify: If you live in New York City and have AT&T, you have the worst 3G service of any carrier in that city.
    Not only that, you have the worst service of any city that AT&T covers.
    Not only that, you have the worst service that ANY carrier provides in any city.

    Screwed.
    • Not only that, you also have to live in New York City.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And the light at the end of the tunnel is new jersey.

        • by Macrat (638047)

          And the light at the end of the tunnel is new jersey.

          Light from the glowing toxic waste?

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's been true since 1999. Posting anonymously for obvious reasons, as I used to work for AT&T.

      Around the time they went back into the local market in '99, Verizon started making life very hard for AT&T customers in New York by blocking access to Verizon cell towers.

      Since Verizon has local utility rights on the rooftops, they get certain extra leeway in the coverage.

      Put simply, you're never going to get good AT&T coverage in New York as long as Verizon holds all the cards.

  • you can get much better performance out of VZ's network if you change your connection settings. it defaults to 256kbps (little bps). up that to the max and it works better, but resets itself each time you disconnect.

    if you're a windows user, create a dialup icon and use the modem directly. You'll be accessing the modem at 4x the speed (serial port) that the VZ software defaults to. And you'll have a more stable connection. Nothing wrong with VZ's software, it simply looks to protect the network and provide

  • I don't live in a city, you insensitive clod. (And yes, that matters quite a bit in the context)
    • by Kamokazi (1080091)

      Me neither. Live in a small rural town of 10k people. Verizon is the only carrier that will not drop a call driving across town. Hell with AT&T you can't get any signal on the east side at all. (And for the people that live far west of town, they can't get VZW, they can only get Sprint. Some people that travel for business have two phones to maintian coverage.)

      That is why I shit a brick when about a year ago I woke up, and my phone said 'EV' on it. I restarted it 3 times just to be sure. I guess

  • I live in NYC (Score:2, Interesting)

    And I wish I got half the speed on my iphone they claim for AT&T. Reliability is a big issue too.
  • by rwwyatt (963545) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @11:25AM (#28586507)

    Disclaimer: I work for a Data Card Manufacturer

    Without the actual procedure for the tests, it is difficult to say if PCWorld'ss are any good. I am not familiar with the software used as no major industry provider uses it. The standard tool in the industry is Windcatcher

    It really depends on the way the test is run. The problem actually relates to the TcpWindowSize as it should be increased to at least 128Kb for HSPA based networks and for CDMA as well.

    Another major issue is that Data Cards don't inherently support streaming. Streaming is often used as a secondary PDP context and this will have a major negative effect. Were they in a handover region or not? On HSPA, every other cell is an interferer so throughput should be measured with a Single Carrier in the active set. It is still possible to be in a handover zone while in a parked car.

    Did they use the carrier supplied good coverage locations? Randomly may not cross the panaroma of RSSI.

    As well, the latest modem from Novatel Wireless is the USB760. I also believe the latest Sierra Wireless card is the compass something or other. Did they use a Y Cable? Did they use an external antenna? What model of PC did they use as TRP/TIS makes a huge difference in low coverage areas?

    Without more data, I would still say there isn't sufficient evidence to form any conclusions from their article.

    • It really depends on the way the test is run. The problem actually relates to the TcpWindowSize as it should be increased to at least 128Kb for HSPA based networks and for CDMA as well.

      is this something that can be done from the user end , and how would you do it on Linux ideally ?

      • by rwwyatt (963545)

        I don't think any changes are required for Linux or MacOSX because the RxWindowSize in Linux auto-tunes to the correct value.

        The following is the default in Fedora 11 2.6.29.5-191.fc11.x86_64: [rwwyatt@rwwyatt ipv4]$ more /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_rmem 4096 87380 4194304

    • by karnal (22275)

      I understand that sometimes testing methodology for getting these networks up and running makes it important to use the proper tools and tweaks. I do this for our wireless network where I work, and it only makes sense to have an idea that you'll have good coverage before users show up.

      Obviously, PCWorld's testing methodology wasn't totally revealed. I would have to say that the typical user of the service is not going to have the tools or specifically limit the types of traffic they attempt to run across

    • by vyrus128 (747164)

      Unless any of this is documented anywhere that _I_ the consumer can read it, it's all useless bullshit distinctions to me. I just want to know whether my data will work. All your factors are irrelevant to me unless it's documented somewhere what they are, so I can control for them. Otherwise the article's approach of testing randomly is a better and more realistic approximation of the conditions I will actually _get_.

      Disclaimer: I have T-Mobile, so all the information in the article is useless to me anyway.

      • by rwwyatt (963545)

        The network providers actually contain visible disclaimers about the total speed.

        There is extensive documentation available concerning additional accessories to the devices. If I recall correctly, some of these devices are even shipped with the Y Cable.

  • I'm constantly on the road traveling and have had all three services, i can tell you Verizon has had the best coverage around the county, specially rural areas, whats the point of having the fastest network if when you need it you cant connect. this is where ATT and sprint fall short on.

  • AT&T (Score:5, Funny)

    by paimin (656338) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @12:21PM (#28586765)
    Well, I'm posting this from an AT&T 3G connection, and I can say it's absolutely relia[[&2$188:..NO CARRIER
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @12:42PM (#28586875) Homepage
    I've noticed other important differences between AT&T and the others: when I go outside the US, my phone isn't a fucking useless brick. I'm also not stuck driving to a tech support office if my phone craps out, I can just put the SIM card in a different phone. I can also order phones with interesting features from foreign countries and they work.

    I wonder why they left T-Mobile out. I'm with AT&T currently would love to see where the other major GSM carrier stands.
    • by Protoslo (752870)
      This is not entirely accurate--I just switched from AT&T to Verizon (and from an OpenMoko Neo Freerunner to a Blackberry Storm). While the Storm still has bugs, it is about 1000% more reliable than the Freerunner, and it is nice having more than about 18 hours of battery...on standby (though the week after I switched, they issued a recall for the buzzing issue--one bug down, a few hundred to go), even considering the dearth of Storm-optimized (and free) software. Anyway, so far I have roamed over much
      • by Dun Malg (230075)

        This is not entirely accurate--I just switched from AT&T to Verizon...to a Blackberry Storm..It has a SIM card as well, and is capable of GSM roaming!

        The Storm 9530 is nothing more than a GSM-only Storm 9500 with a Verizon CDMA module shoehorned in along with a Euro frequency only GSM module. You still do not have a SIM card you can swap to a different CDMA phone if your Storm craps out, as the SIM is just a jury-rig solution to solve the problem of CDMA phones being bricks in Europe. My original objection still stands: there are no Verizon phones that their Grand Viziers haven't given the royal seal of approval to. You can't (for example) mail order som

  • It would have been a laughingstock.

    T-Mobile's 3G is like Swiss cheese here in Miami.

    And when it does work, it's usually less than a megabit.

    • It would have been a laughingstock.

      T-Mobile's 3G is like Swiss cheese here in Miami.

      And when it does work, it's usually less than a megabit.

      It's all relative, I suppose. My experience with T-Mobile's 3G here in Illinois for the past few months has been excellent (on a G1, just FYI.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WiiVault (1039946)
        Thats because while tmobile has almost zero 3g coverage nationally, they also have few users with 3G phones.
    • Same thing in Fort Lauderdale despite the T-mobile coverage map showing solid green for 3G everywhere it's always bouncing between 3G, Edge, off - even within my bedroom. I only kept it because I am moving away in a few weeks and hoping for better results in New York.
  • The company I work for keeps a pool of aircards for employees who travel (mostly sprint, but we also have two verizon and two at&t). I took one from all three providers on a trip to run my own speed test about a year ago - tested them on a drive up from Las Vegas through Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco to Sacramento. The Sprint was consistently the fastest (I'd usually get download rates around 1.2-1.4mbps - did not test for upload) and seemed to get the best reception in most places (particularly
  • by PhrackCreak (136718) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @03:20PM (#28587855)

    I have AT&T. I live in San Francisco. AT&T regularly drops calls. I cannot make calls from home without dropping them a minute or two into the conversation. I could not make calls from work until they installed an expensive repeater. Notice that AT&T lost EVERY SINGLE reliability comparison.

    For my needs, that makes them the worst provider.

    • I just spent a couple of weeks in the Big Apple, and the performance there is absolutely miserable. Constant dropped calls, 3G that's so slow it barely works. I have to switch 3G off to get a somewhat reliable calling/data service. Of course, in NYC every third person has an iPhone or Blackberry and AT&T clearly isn't provisioning to handle it.

    • I live in Los Angeles, the South West Side (commonly referred to as The South Bay). I just ditched Verizon and switched to AT&T because I wanted the iPhone 3GS (it's a phone and iPod and I no longer have to use a CD Walkman when running outside)!

      Well, I got home with my new iPhone 3GS, all excited, and decided to call Verizon to make sure they canceled my account when my number got ported over at the AT&T store. Well, lets just say they should use my call for a commercial against AT&T.... Aft
    • by paimin (656338)
      Yeah, it's pretty bloody pathetic. It's a tiny city, 7x7 miles, and what's more it's right next to Apple HQ, and is the site of the flagship Apple Store. You would think that, at least in SF, the shit would work right.

      I guess it must be rocket science.
  • I don't see how average coverage is useful except for people that spend all their time traveling -- which is not terribly common in terms of cell phone users, now ks it?

    In any case, I have Sprint now (with a Pre) and I consistently get T1 speeds in both directions in the DC area. It absolutely destroys the speed of both my DSL at home and leased line at work, unfortunately...

  • 90% (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bugi (8479) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @05:44PM (#28588857)

    Since when is 90% reliability even remotely acceptable?

    • Since when is 90% reliability even remotely acceptable?

      Considering how radio technology works, cities are arranged, and all of the things that interfere with it, since it's inception.

      Anybody who's ever had to manually tune the channel on a TV should understand this inherently.

  • AT&T reception in Los Angeles is like the fucking Bermuda Triangle
  • Though it does put into perspective why AT&T wants to charge for tethering. They're not ready for people even with standard tethering, just think if you get all those iPhones. I hear "Well my tethering works..." yeah for YOU..not many people are smart enough to know how to update their carrier files so they can.

    I also discovered that one of the main reasons AT&T disabled MMS...you can also send .MOV files via MMS (ala Verizon style)..and apparently that's what their worried about.

    Still...way to rele

  • To me the test of a good wireless carrier is whether I can travel from Washington, DC to New York City by train and maintain a wireless connection. I'll even give them the tunnels. I am a business traveler and basically work up and down the east coast. The fact that I cannot maintain a wireless internet connection on either T-Mobile or AT&T up and down the Northeast Corridor is nuts. If competion is such a driver of innovation, why has no one capitalized on the ultimate high-dollar captive market???
  • Coincidentally, I was at my Sprint store West of Detroit last week and tested the download speed of the laptop they had out. It was about 220 kbits/sec. It must have been bursty, because the delays I was experiencing I judged to be "no chance I'm going to pay for this."

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