By Harry McCracken | Monday, June 29, 2009 at 1:12 pm
Sprint claims to have “America’s most dependable 3G network.” Verizon says it has “America’s largest and most reliable wireless network.” AT&T says it has “the nation’s fastest 3G network.” With wireless, in other words, everybody’s a winner–if you ask the carriers themselves.
Which is why I admire what Mark Sullivan and my other PC World pals did: compare the three carries for upload speed, download speed, and reliability in thirteen cities. PCW conducted this ambitious real-world experiment in partnership with Novarum, using Ixia’s IxChariot tool. As Mark says in his story, the results are only a snapshot of how the networks did on a given day, in the particular locations in the specific cities that PCW and Novarum visited. But they’re interesting nonetheless. And they tend to jibe with some of the anecdotal impressions that folks have about the three carriers:
–The performance varied a lot from city to city.
–Out of the 13 cities, Verizon got the highest reliability rating in seven and Sprint got the highest one in six. AT&T didn’t score highest in reliability in any cities, and was often far behind its two competitors.
–Verizon got the highest download score in seven cities; Sprint scored highest in four; AT&T in two.
–AT&T had the highest upload score in ten cities; Sprint was highest in two; Verizon in only one.
The most notable result is AT&T’s lackluster download score. AT&T told PCW that it stands by its claim of being the nation’s fastest 3G provider, based on results from two independent firms and tests involving a million road miles and a million data sessions. I don’t dispute its stance. But PCW’s experiment is a useful reminder that claims about “America” or “the nation” may or may not reflect what you get in your own hometown. And it might help to explain why AT&T is the only one of the big three carriers who never talks about dependability or reliability in its ads.