PCWorld Mobile Speed Tests Help Clear Up Confusion on Whose 4G is Really Fastest

Verizon shows blazing 4G speeds, T-Mobile impresses, as all the big carriers step up their game

SAN FRANCISCO--()--With every major US wireless carrier on TV claiming their wireless service is the fastest and best, PCWorld set out with its annual, real-world mobile speed tests to shed some light on the situation. PCWorld testers hit the road to evaluate major carriers’ 3G and/or 4G service from 260 locations in 13 US cities, using both laptop modems and smartphones. They’ve shared their results in a feature story published today on PCWorld.com.

Good news for consumers: overall, wireless data speeds have shot up. Senior editor Mark Sullivan, PCWorld’s resident 4G expert, explains, “Since this time last year, the major wireless carriers, as a group, have increased their average download speeds three-and-a-half fold, our laptop modem-based tests show, as a result of their somewhat urgent transition from 3G to 4G network technology.” Tests showed that The Big Four carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile) now have a collective average download speed of roughly 3.5 mbps in the 13 testing cities, compared to 1 mbps download speed in those cities at the beginning of 2010.


  • Verizon’s 4G service performance in the PCWorld laptop modem-based tests showed it is a force with which to be reckoned. But there’s a downside to Verizon’s 4G glory. The smartphone-based tests suggest that the 3G CDMA network that most Verizon customers use today may actually be getting slower.
  • T-Mobile smartphones tested fastest at about 42 percent ahead of the second-fastest phone, Sprint’s EVO 4G, which had an average download speed of 1.6 mbps.
  • Sprint’s 4G network performed well in some of the test cities, showing dramatic increases over last year, but lacks coverage in many cities.
  • While AT&T was the big winner in our January 2010 survey, and it continued to ramp up throughput speeds at about the same pace in this year’s survey results, each of the carrier’s competitors have increased download speeds faster over the past year.


Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.

To view laptop-modem tested network performance by city, click here >> or visit this URL: http://zapp5.staticworld.net/images/article/2011/03/4g_speed_test_chart3x-5152355.jpg

To view smartphone tested network performance by city, click here >> or visit this URL: http://zapp5.staticworld.net/images/article/2011/03/4g_speed_test_chart4x-5152359.jpg

Read the complete article with detailed results and data at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/221931/4g_wireless_speed_tests_which_is_really_the_fastest.html#tk.hp_fv

“Our annual speed test study is an important part of what we do at PCWorld,” explains VP, editorial director, Steve Fox. “Readers look to us for an unbiased, independent, empirical assessment of the technology and services they buy and use. It’s exciting to see that the wireless carriers are making real efforts to bolster their networks and are providing fast, reliable service across the board for their customers. And we’re happy to serve as a benchmarker to make sure it’s really happening on the street.”


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Jim Hopkins, 415-978-3380

Release Summary

PCWorld tested network performance of ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon in 13 US cities. PCWorld's exclusive results showed overall wireless data speeds have shot up in the past year.


Jim Hopkins, 415-978-3380