4G Showdown: AT&T Vs. T-Mobile (video)

by Sean P. Aune | February 21, 2011February 21, 2011 11:19 am PDT

4g-flamesThe war between cellular carriers in the United States has become all about 4G speeds, but who truly is the winner between AT&T and T-Mobile?

It seems you can’t go anywhere on TV or online any more without seeing some sort of advertisement for a cellular carrier’s 4G network.  These networks promise you crazy speeds that would put most home Internet connection speeds to shame, but what is the reality?  And which is truly faster?

Our own Jon Rettinger decided to pit AT&T and T-Mobile against one another to see which network was truly faster.  For AT&T he used an HTC Inspire and for T-Mobile he went with the Motorola Galaxy S 4G.  He conducted five tests over the course of two and a half hours on Feb. 18th starting at 7 AM, and these are the results he got: (all speeds in Mbps)

AT&T T-Mobile
Down Up Down Up
Test #1 1.3 .4 2.8 1.4
Test #2 1.2 .3 2.7 1.5
Test #3 3.2 .4 2.8 1.8
Test #4 1.3 .7 2.4 1.5
Test #5 1.4 .6 2.8 1.6

The speeds shown in the video above were from tests conducted at 4:30 PM on Feb. 20th.

As you can see, while T-Mobile was easily the winner, neither network came close to what they promise.  T-Mobile has been saying that it can hit as fast 21 Mbps, but it appears you have to be in just the right place to get those speeds.  AT&T’s network is supposed to deliver around 7.2 Mbps, so going by percentages it actually did better.

On the upload front, according to AndroidCentral, it seems that the Inspire is missing HSUPA capabilities, the part of a 4G setup that allows you to upload via the faster network.  The Inspire is actually using 3G on the upload side of the equation, so even though the phone is touted as being a 4G device, you’re actually only getting half of that capability.  Downloads are what most consumers will care about anyway, but if you need an attach a file to an email, or want to upload a video somewhere, this could very definitely come into play.

(UPDATE: BoyGeniusReport is saying the HSUPA is disabled via firmware.  We will be reaching out to AT&T for official comment and updating as it develops.)

Overall it looks like we are moving towards a 4G-filled world, but it isn’t quite moving at the speeds the carriers would like us to believe.

What say you?  Disappointed by the results?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...