A few months ago Verizon started running some pretty obvious ads for those of us who use both Verizon and AT&T. They compared their 3G coverage map to AT&T’s. AT&T came up wanting.
AT&T fired back, saying that their 3G network covers 97% of cell phone users, and that it’s faster. They further brag that AT&T users can surf the Web while they’re on the phone.
I’m sitting here this morning using a Verizon 3G modem connected to my MacBook, writing code for the iPhone in my pocket. On a whim I went to speedtest.net on both the Mac and iPhone to see what the results would be.
Speedtest.net on the iPhone took me to the App Store to download their free native app. On the Mac, Speedtest.net runs in your Web browser. I downloaded the app to my iPhone and made sure both the Mac and iPhone were connecting to the same server in Kalamazoo, MI.
The results of three tests tests on each device are summarized below:
|Run 1||790 Kbps||60 Kbps||205 Kbps||233 Kbps|
|Run 2||230 Kbps||60 Kbps||105 Kbps||130 Kbps|
|Run 3||430 Kbps||110 Kbps||70 Kbps||190 Kbps|
|Average||483 Kbps||77 Kbps||127 Kbps||184 Kbps|
|Overall||280 Kbps||156 Kbps|
AT&T has an upload advantage, but most mobile Web surfing and email activity depends on download speed, not upload speed. Furthermore, AT&T’s overall speed (average of upload and download) is lower. So even if you did an equal amount of uploading and downloading (which would be very unusual), Verizon is faster.
This seems to undermine AT&T’s argument that their network, while covering very little of the geographic area of the US, is faster. It appears to me based on my one sample location (Coffee Emporium in Hiawatha, IA) that this is not true.
And while I may be able to surf and talk at the same time with my iPhone, if you read the fine print you’ll find out that only applies when you’re in 3G coverage. The one time I’ve needed to do it in the last two years I was not in 3G coverage and therefore couldn’t surf while I was on the phone.
The iPhone is a great device and if you live in certain areas of the country very close to an ocean you have great coverage. And the connection speed, while slower than Verizon, is certainly adequate for mobile Web and email activities. I really like my iPhone and recommend them to everyone. However, AT&T is its weak spot.