In our January 2010 survey of 3G service, we measured average download speeds of around 1 mbps in almost all of our testing cities (the 13-city average was 1.078 mbps) on our Motorola Droid smartphone. In those same cities this year, we saw very similar performance on our Droid 2 smartphone--again, most speed results were grouped around the 1-mbps mark, but the 13-city average download speed was 7% lower than last year's, at 1.008 mbps.
We found further evidence of a stagnant CDMA network in laptop-modem tests in Portland, where the Verizon LTE service is not available. We found an average download speed of 0.8 mbps in Portland last year, and clocked an average speed of only 0.55 mbps this year. This, of course, is lousy news for Verizon smartphone users, including those who recently bought the new Verizon iPhone.
Did Verizon build its impressive LTE network at the expense of further upgrades to its 3G CDMA network? Are the majority of Verizon subscribers paying the price for the blazing speeds enjoyed by just a few? Verizon chose not to comment on these questions.
T-Mobile Walks the Walk
T-Mobile began to brand its HSPA+ network service and phones as "4G" this year. Its ad campaign promoting the offering--you know, pretty girl, polka dots, poking fun at AT&T--has been hard to avoid. But our test results show that the carrier has been spending its money on far more than ad campaigns.
In short, T-Mobile's network is fast--far speedier and more reliable than it was just a year ago--and is indeed pumping out speeds that are competitive with the 4G services of the other providers. T-Mobile scored the fastest download speeds in our smartphone tests, and took a respectable second place behind Verizon Wireless in our laptop-modem tests.
T-Mobile more than tripled its download speeds in our smartphone tests since last year. In our smartphone tests using the T-Mobile HTC G2, we measured a 13-city average download speed of 2.3 mbps. T-Mobile's 13-city average a year ago (testing on an HTC G1) was 0.72 mbps. In Denver and Seattle, our T-Mobile phone averaged download speeds of more than 3 mbps. We were able to achieve a connection speed of more than 2 mbps in 52% of our tests.