It’s a big week for mobile Internet, as nearly every wireless company is at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas and unveiling plans for cell phone customers in the U.S. But is there anything we should really care about?
More people are moving to smartphones and rely on cellular-based wireless for Internet. The mobile Web needs to speed up, big time.
Currently 3rd-generation (3G) Internet speeds are around 1 megabit per second. The coming 4G technology promises much faster service. Sprint and T-Mobile announced their upgrades today. Verizon’s is coming tomorrow.
If you’re trying to sort out what mobile service is in your future, here’s what it comes down to:
► T-Mobile: Announced “Rollout the Nation’s Fastest 3G Wireless Network.”
Speeds: Using a technology called HSPA+, T-Mobile says its mobile Internet will jump to speeds of 21 megabits per second. The announcement Tuesday included a “coming soon” for Los Angeles (and Orange County) users.
Reality: 21 mbps is a theoretical speed. As with every wireless Internet, speed will vary based on “location, device, and overall traffic on the local wireless network,” which T-Mobile does note. How slow? One reviewer seemed impressed when he squeezed 3 mbps out of T-Mobile’s service. Users also must upgrade to a HSPA device (here’s a list) and, ultimately, this is 3G and not 4G technology. However, it’s one of the fastest wireless technologies available today and should be everywhere by end of year.
► Sprint: Expanded its limited 4G wireless Internet to more areas, including North Orange County later this year.
Speeds: Using 4G Wimax technology, Sprint says its mobile Internet is 3 to 6 mbps, which is “up to 10 times faster” than today’s existing 3G speeds of around 600 kilobits per second, says Sprint.
Reality: The same reviewer who tested T-Mobile’s HSPA+ discovered Sprint’s 4G speed was slower, at 2.25 mbps. Other 4G user forums mention how it’s slower than 3G. But there are no caps on usage, and it’s the only 4G service publicly available.
► Verizon: Still waiting to hear Verizon’s update, which is coming Wednesday.
Speeds: Its mobile Internet service using Long Term Evolution technology (LTE) is on track for this year. Peak download of 40 to 50 mbps; upload speed of 20 to 25 mbps.
Reality: Since speed is reliant on environment and other users, Verizon says the average download speed is more like 5 to 12 mbps, while upload speed is 2 to 5 mbps.
► AT&T: Appears to be concentrating on other news this week and announced connected digital photo frames and GPS-enabled dog collars. The company, which is sticking with HSPA for now until it moves to LTE, did express disbelief as to whether LTE is ready for prime time.
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