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Fastest Mobile Networks 2013
PCMag drove more than 20,000 miles to test AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Here's
what we found.
By Sascha Segan
June 17, 2013
Regional and National Winners
Northeast: AT&T 4G LTE
Last year, we noted AT&T's LTE network offered higher
download speeds than Verizon's, but it wasn't available
in all of our northeastern test cities. This year it is, and
that made all the difference. AT&T's network delivered
better upload and download speeds than Verizon's, making it our choice
across the northeast.
How We Tested
4G: Beyond Speed
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Southeast: AT&T 4G LTE
The southeastern region saw some of AT&T's overall
fastest speeds, in Raleigh, and although Verizon
Wireless also got faster this year, AT&T maintained its
lead with a superior LTE network. AT&T's network
dropped off in rural Georgia and Florida, though, making Verizon
Wireless a better choice in areas outside the cities.
Salt Lake City, UT
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North Central: AT&T 4G LTE
AT&T's LTE speeds boomed in Chicago and St. Louis
this year, helping that network take the crown for the
fastest in the north-central region. The results were
close, though: Verizon won Detroit and the North
Central rural regions outright, and would have won St. Louis had we
balanced our score more towards reliability than speed.
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South Central: AT&T 4G LTE
AT&T and Verizon ran neck and neck across Texas—
they were effectively tied overall in Houston and Dallas
—but AT&T's solid wins in New Orleans and Memphis
made it our winner for the South Central region. As
we've seen in other regions, the choice between the two big carriers was
about speed versus reliability, with AT&T offering faster sustained
downloads and Verizon fewer timed-out Web connections, although both
performed well on both measures.
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Northwest: AT&T 4G LTE
AT&T's clear wins in Salt Lake City, San Francisco and
Seattle made up for Verizon's broader coverage along
rural Interstates to give AT&T the award for the
fastest mobile network in the Northwest. T-Mobile's
new LTE network showed real promise when we could find it in the
Seattle and San Jose areas, though, so it could become a true competitor
Southwest: AT&T 4G LTE
Our southwestern markets split, with Phoenix going to
T-Mobile LTE, Los Angeles and the rural areas going to
Verizon Wireless, and Tucson, Las Vegas and San Diego
being handed to AT&T. With a split like that, AT&T
won by a nose, but it's clear that people in the southwest need to pay
attention to what's available in their specific cities. A glimpse of an active
T-Mobile LTE tower in Tucson gave us hope for that to become a third
competitive network in more of Arizona.
Rural/Suburban: Verizon 4G LTE
Beyond our 30 cities, coverage really mattered, and
only one LTE network has nationwide coverage:
Verizon 4G LTE. With Verizon's LTE network the only
one of its kind in the running, it aced every
rural/suburban region and blew away the competing national networks.
National: AT&T 4G LTE
AT&T's LTE network was the fastest overall in our 30
cities. In our first truly fair fight between LTE
networks, AT&T came through with faster upload and
download speeds overall than Verizon Wireless,
although Verizon offered better reliability and greater rural coverage
than its competitor. If you're looking for a fast mobile broadband
experience in major and medium-sized cities, AT&T is the best
nationwide 4G choice.
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