Who’s Got the Fastest Mobile Broadband? Sprint, Verizon and AT&T S…

So you open up your browser and hop over to Google. You kind in something like:

Who has the fastest mobile broadband?

3 sites that look very familiar pop up saying stuff like:

“BroadbandAccess Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO) network from Verizon Wireless has been enhanced with EV-DO Rev. A to deliver already faster data speeds and greater efficiencies. Fast downloads – typical speeds of 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps. Fast uploads – typical speeds of 500-800 Kbps.”

“With a Sprint Mobile Broadband Card, you get average download speeds of 600-1400 Kbps, peaking at 3.1 Mbps, and 350-500 Kbps average upload speeds, peaking at 1.8 Mbps. Similar to DSL, and about ten times faster than using a dial-up modem”

” AT&T offers the broadband speed and responsiveness of BroadbandConnect…the latest 3G devices provide typical download throughput of 700 kbps to 1.7 Mbps for downloads and 500 kbps to 1.2 Mbps for upload”


Just give it to me straight Doc. Speak English. How in the world is someone supposed to figure out who’s the fastest with this ‘can’t sue me’ lawyer-speak?

All the ranges seem to overlap. already looking at the maximum speeds, Verizon and Sprint look identical…until, that is, you realize they are only theoretical. A best case scenario that’s not too optimistic.

It’s just like your speedometer’s range that goes from 0 mph to 120 mph. Just because 120 mph is on your dashboard doesn’t average your rusty 16 year old Honda Civic Hatchback with the flashing engine check light is gonna make it.

The companies also know you can’t call them on it because ‘there are too many variables’. What were the road conditions like? How fast were you going? When last have you had a tune-up? What was the weather like? Do you know how many cell phone towers were in the area? How many satellites were positioned around you at the time? Or my personal favorite ‘You were most likely roaming and we have no control over other networks’.

It’s like trying to get fresh organic vegetables at McDonald’s. It’s just not gonna happen.

It just is what it is my friend.

The only way down to the nitty gritty and feast on the raw truth is to get out into the wild. Outside of my own testing, I draw on the experiences of others from ComputerWorld, Gizmodo and jkOnTheRun. I’ll give you a quick chronological recap of what happened with each:

ComputerWorld – Which 3G Network Is The Best? – 05/13/08


New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

Broadband Cards:

(AT&T) Sierra Wireless USBConnect 881, (Sprint) Novatel Wireless Ovation U727 and (Verizon) Sierra Wireless USB AirCard 595U

consequence: AT&T had the highest maximum speed (1.6 Mbps), average download speed (755 Kbps) and upload speed (484 Kbps)

Gizmodo – The Definitive Coast-to-Coast 3G Data Test – 12/17/08


Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco and the Bay Area

Broadband Cards:

AT&T’s Sierra USBConnect 881, Sprint’s Sierra Wireless Compass 597 and Verizon Wireless’s Novatel USB727

Results: Sprint had the highest national average download speed (1.4 Mbps) while AT&T (640 kbps) had the highest average upload speed

jkOnTheRun – 3G SpeedTest: EV-DO vs. HSDPA in Phoenix – 12/27/08

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Broadband Cards: Verizon Wireless USB727, AT&T USB Quicksilver

Results: Verizon had the highest download speed (2.1 Mbps) and upload speed (744 Kbps)

So here we’ve got 3 different tests all showing someone else as the winner. It’s hardly surprising. Mobile broadband speeds do vary from place to place. The only way to get a clear winner is to test in multiple locations, take a associate averages and then see who comes out on top.

Since Gizmodo’s test was the most comprehensive, it’s fair to say its also the most reliable. Sprint is kicking butt in the mobile broadband game. already if you only compare the tests Gizmodo performed in New York City alongside the tests ComputerWorld ran in NYC, Sprint nevertheless beats AT&T in download and upload speed.

Sprint is clearly the winner overall and provides serious competition in every location. If put together the fact that they’re the fastest, largest mobile broadband network, you’ve got a double whammy.

It’s no surprise that Andy Abramson of Working Anywhere recommends Sprint. He spends about $900 per month testing mobile broadband and wireless internet related sets. Seems like he might know a thing or two.

To beat a dead horse already further…

I’ve personally tested it over 1001 miles of highway at 70 miles per hour (New Orleans to Jacksonville and Tampa to Atlanta). I had my connection get dropped once…for 15 minutes total. That’s substantial.

Now before we all start bowing down to the awesome network that is Sprint, ComputerWorld points out some things you should know:

“Using this technology can be a bit like being on a roller coaster. I found that I could be screaming along at 1.1Mbit/sec. only to have speeds slow to a crawl at 20Kbit/sec. a moment later. That’s because, as with all cellular service, speed and reliability depend on a variety of conditions, such as how far you are from a cell tower, how many other users are connected in your vicinity and how much data they’re moving”.

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