4G smackdown: Verizon LTE vs. the rest

When it comes to 4G services who's the best in the U.S.? Here's a brief overview of what each competitor offers

Verizon's 4G LTE service goes live Sunday in 39 cities, growing the field of companies offering fast mobile broadband 4G service. Verizon joins Sprint and T-Mobile which are also hawking wireless services at 4G data speeds. Meanwhile lesser-known providers such as Clear and Metro PCS are getting in on the action as well.

Who has the best deals, fastest speeds, best coverage in the U.S.? As you know picking the best - and fastest - wireless broadband service is relative to your needs. Here I've assembled a brief overview of what each competitor is offering. The accompanying chart (click on chart image or here) will break it down even more for you. But one important disclaimer first. The information provided in the chart is a combination of data from PC World tests, vender provided data, and a bit from third-party sources. Stay tuned for the official PC World breakdown.

(See Related: Sprint's EVO Phone in a 4G Zone: How Fast Is It & A Day in the Life of 3 )

Verizon Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G

Pros: Verizon has the fastest speeds of any 4G network, at 5 Mbps to 12 Mbps download and 2 Mbps to 5 Mbps upload. The price for hotspot coverage is cheaper than Sprint.

Cons: Phones won't be available until mid-2011, and the data caps are a downer.

Sprint Wi-Max 4G

Pros: Unlimited data makes Sprint's 4G a haven for data hogs, and solid phones are available in HTC's Evo 4G and Samsung's Epic 4G. Cheap hotspot hardware at $50 per month after rebate.

Cons: Average speeds are slower than Verizon at 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps download and up to 1 Mbps upload, and more expensive. Hotspot service is a hefty $30 per month on phones.

T-Mobile HSPA+

Pros: Service doesn't cost extra, good phones in the G2 and MyTouch 4G, video chat over 4G. Laptop USB stick is free with two-year contract.

Cons: Not really 4G, with slower speeds of 1.5 Mbps to 3.5 in testing. No standalone hotspots available.

Metro PCS LTE 4G

Pros: Dirt cheap at $55 per month.

Cons: You get what you pay for, with average speeds of 700 kbps in testing, according to GigaOM. Samsung Craft feature phone costs $300.

Clear Wi-Max 4G

Pros: Cheapest unlimited hotspot coverage at $45 per month with $99 hotspot. Same network as Sprint.

Cons: No phones, no 3G fallback in cities without 4G.

Clearwire Rover Wi-Max 4G

Pros: Maximum flexibility with plans at $5 per day, $20 per week and $50 per month, and no-contract Rover Puck hotspot for $150. Same network as Sprint.

Cons: No phones, no 3G fallback in cities without 4G.

This story, "4G smackdown: Verizon LTE vs. the rest" was originally published by PCWorld.

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