Real Vs. Advertised Speeds
Since last year, the underlying technology of AT&T 4G speed has been in a major transition. Previously, the primary players were HSPA (3G) and HSPA+ (4G). Now that’s changed to include LTE (4G) as well.
Here’s how they stack up next to each other:
Based on AT&T’s advertised speeds:
- GPRS (2G): “General Packet Radio Service) is the first level of data service on GSM.”
- EDGE (2.5G): “EDGE provides typical download speeds of 70-135 kbps.”
- HSPA (3G): “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”
- HSPA+ (4G): “Technology that enables 4G speeds up to 4x faster than AT&T’s already fast mobile broadband network.”
- LTE (4G): “Long Term Evolution. Speeds up to 10x faster than 3G.” AT&T says 4G customers can expect download speeds of between 5 Mbps and 12 Mbps, and upload speeds of between 2 Mbps and 5 Mbps.
While this is a decently general guide to go by, as we saw previously, real world speed tests can differ significantly from advertised speeds. As it turns out, the same holds true in the 2012 PCWorld 13 city speed test of 3G and 4G speeds:
In the eight cities where we performed testing in both 2011 and 2012, AT&T increased the average download speed of its HSPA+ service (which it now markets as 4G) substantially, from 1.63 mbps in 2011 to 2.62 mbps in 2012.
In the 11 cities in our test group where the [LTE] service is available, the network delivered an average download speed of 9.12 mbps.
Here’s what those HSPA+ & LTE download speeds numbers look like alongside each other:
AT&T does not differentiate between HSPA+ and LTE when advertising “4G download speeds of between 5 Mbps and 12 Mbps, and upload speeds of between 2 Mbps and 5 Mbps.” In charting this data, it is assumed that 4G LTE speeds are represented by the upper end of the spectrum while HSPA+ speeds are reflected by the lower.
- AT&T [ibid]
- PCWorld [ibid]
While AT&T 4G speed falls short of its maximum advertised speed, it not only falls well within the advertised range but dusts the competition:
“AT&T’s new LTE network turned in the fastest download speeds of any 4G service.
Its 3G service was very competitive, too–and those two results help make a strong case for AT&T dual-mode 3G/4G phones.”
Source: PCWorld.com [ibid]
What’s AT&T 4G Speed Like In My City?
If you’re in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, or Washington, D.C., then you’re in luck.
This PCWorld slideshow will show you city-by-city specific 4G speed test results for AT&T.
Check it out and let us know in the comments how your city stacked up against other places you’ve been to.
This article is part of the 2012 AT&T 4G Review. Check each section out for a comprehensive look at AT&T 4G mobile broadband.