Speed Tests: What does 4G really mean?


Today I sat down with two friends around a table. I have a Nexus 1 operating on T-mobile. One friend has the latest iPhone operating on AT&T and the other friend has the new Samsung Epic on Sprint. We were in Salt Lake City where two of us had 3G reception (t-mobile and at&t) and the third was on Sprint’s 4G network. I decided the opportunity was too good to pass up. I prompted both to download the speed test app which operates via SpeedTest.net. We lined all 3 phones next to each other and hit the begin test

Results: I won. My average download speed was about 3900 but I peaked at 4400. My average upload speed was 1350 and peaked at 1490. The iPhone averaged about 900 download speed but peaked around 4100 out of the blue on one test. The iPhone averaged around 90 upload speed and don’t think it peaked over 100. The most disappointing was the Sprint 4G which averaged about 1500 download speed and around 100 upload speed.

Observations: I don’t have any reason to think that the individual handsets played a big role. All three phones have good hardware and are in good condition but what we are really measuring is the individual performance of the 3 carriers. Also note that we had 2 Android devices and one iPhone but again this matters very little.

Next thing to point out was that while T-mobile was by far the fastest carrier in Salt Lake City this may change from market to market. Different carriers will excel from one city to the next. In fact I would really love to hear from readers in the comments below what you can tell us about your own local market speed tests.

Also note that the performance from AT&T was very inconsistent. It had a very good download speed on one out of 15 speed tests. This is consistent with what I’ve heard from a lot of people. AT&T operates on the same GSM technology as T-mobile but people consistently complain that AT&T is generally overloaded by its vast network of iPhone and iPad users on a network that can’t support it.

Next, and perhaps most important is the disappointing Sprint 4G. Please remember that numbers mean very little. If Verizon came out with 5G tomorrow it wouldn’t mean anything in regards to speed. Sprint can run whatever commercial it wants but the truth always comes out in the speed test.

Please download the free speed test app and leave your test results below. Please don’t forget to tell us what city your test was performed in and what carrier your phone is on. When possible challenge your friends to the test and report their results also.

Jacob S Paulsen


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  • It depends, my Sprint 4G in my area is far faster than those you’ve posted, I average 7.5-8MBPs down on the EVO http://twitpic.com/2o1ar9 but I think region plays a big role.

    • admin

      That’s screaming fast!

  • Mike

    What is a Samsung axis? That’s not even a4g phone. Those speed tests don’t really apply the 4g tests. To do a real test. Get an Evo and the other 2 phone and download or upload the same huge file and you will see the difference. I uploaded a75 mb video to youtube on a1 bar 4g signal in less then 2 minutes. The same video took more then 20 min on a full bar of wifi. Just do real tests with real files, and not an app that probably doesn’t have a4g update built in.

    • admin

      Sorry about the axis confusion. I typed the article on my phone and somehow the auto spell checker corrected me or I bumped something. It should have been Epic but I’ve corrected it above

  • admin

    Just as a follow up I just did a speed test with my T-Mobile phone, a Droid on Verizon, and the Epic on Sprint here in Vegas. Sprint has the fastest download speed but the upload was awful. Verizon had amazing upload speed but the worst download. T-Mobile was is the middle on both counts.

  • LA Doesn’t even officially have 4G yet and I’m pulling 5Mbps downloads around Hollywood and Culver City.
    WiMAX will probably get replaced with LTE, but right now, there’s NO faster wireless access in LA…

  • Brendon

    I was able to get 5000 on hspa+ here in canada on my galaxy s