In early tests, iPhone 5 customers praise fast LTE wireless speeds
LTE is giving users up to 10x the speeds of 3G
LTE data speeds with the new LTE-ready iPhone 5 are many times faster than speeds over older 3G networks, according to delighted users, who praised the data speeds in interviews and in online forums.
One Verizon Wireless customer with a new iPhone 5 who lives northwest of Richmond, Va. reported in an online forum that he was getting LTE data download speeds of up 22.3Mbps -- and upload speeds of 11.1Mbps on Sunday.
"I ... was surprised to see those speeds in this area," said "Keirtt" on forums.imore.com. "Literally, I could throw a stone and hit rural Virginia, and yet I have great LTE."
It's too soon to judge whether there will be an LTE network crunch from the iPhone 5. Already, 5 million new iPhones have been sold, with many more on their way to customers. But there don't seem to be any major problems so far with LTE network support from the three major U.S. carriers.
"It's definitely a lot faster on LTE," Bryan Moore, lives in mostly rural Mt. Sidney, Va., said in a telephone interview. "It downloads things faster and uploads faster than before." Moore, a Verizon customer who bought a new iPhone 5 on Friday, said he's noticed the speed while using Twitter and Facebook and when streaming music over Pandora.
At his home, Moore said his Verizon network coverage constantly shifts from LTE to 3G and the related EDGE data network. When that happens, he's noticed a slight hiccup of less than a second when viewing a music video. Otherwise, it hasn't caused any real problems.
Faster data speeds mean that it's much easier to consume data, especially when viewing video and using FaceTime for video chats. That's a concern for Moore, who said he now plans to better track his data usage so he won't blow past his new monthly Share Everything 2GB data plan. Otherwise, he'll have to pay an overage charge.
Moore gave up an unlimited plan with Verizon to get the new iPhone 5, which he likes for its Siri turn-by-turn directions in Apple Maps and its larger 4-in. screen.
Using a Verizon app, he found out he'd already used 200MB of data in just four days. "I was surprised I had used that much," he said.
Analysts note that data speeds are highly dependent on how many LTE smartphones of all types are using a nearby cell tower, as well as a user's distance from the antenna. All of the major U.S. carriers have for months sold smartphones and tablets running Android that use LTE, so those will be competing with the iPhone 5 for wireless network capacity.
Also, some cities on certain carriers in the U.S. don't even have LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution. Verizon Wireless covers the most cities -- nearly 400 -- of the U.S. carriers. AT&T last week said it now covers 72 cities, but also has fast HSPA+ speeds across the U.S. Sprint expects to reach 100 cities by year's end.
The carriers usually give a wide range of expected data speeds with LTE, with AT&T saying its HSPA+ will be three or four times faster than 3G and LTE about 10 times faster than 3G. In general, the carriers say that LTE will give users more than 10Mbps on downloads, and from 1Mbps to 4 Mbps for uploads.
Another forum user on forums.imore.com, "Eviljack8," showed his AT&T LTE data speeds outside Atlanta were up to 20.1Mbps for downloads and more than 10Mbps on uploads. But a user in the Minneapolis area said, "AT&T still has some work to do in the Twin Cities." That user saw download speeds of just 3.2Mbps and upload speeds as high as 1.3Mbps.
By contrast, another forum user accessing the Rogers Canada network in Toronto, "MathieuLLF," provided a screenshot indicating a download speed of 57.09Mbps and an upload speed of 25.27Mbps -- far greater than any U.S. customer has experienced.
An editor for Computerworld in Framingham, Mass. along a major interstate highway where service is generally good reported up to 6.9Mbps on downloads and up to 8.47Mbps on uploads with his new Verizon iPhone 5.
The three major U.S. carriers all said LTE service has been normal since the iPhone 5's arrival. "Our customers can expect a great experience on the iPhone 5 on AT&T's 4G network, the nation's largest [with HSPA+ included], said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "They can talk and surf at the same time and get blazing fast speeds."
At Verizon, spokeswoman Brenda Raney didn't even refer to the iPhone 5: "Verizon Wireless network engineers prepare, maintain and operate our nationwide wireless network to optimize our customers' experience with a keen eye toward consistent reliability and performance. We work hard to ensure that our 3G and 4G networks are ready to support the devices we sell to our customers. Our customers expect a great experience on the Verizon Wireless network - we know that and third-party surveys support our superior network quality, including from RootMetrics and JD Power."
At Sprint, spokeswoman Michelle Mermelstein said: "No issues have been reported [with the iPhone 5] and nothing is expected. Our network is ready to handle the LTE traffic we expect with iPhone 5."
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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