AT&T Roars Back in PCWorld’s Second 3G Wireless Performance Test

T-Mobile: Playing With the Big Boys

In our tests, T-Mobile?s 3G network delivered download speeds that matched Verizon?s and Sprint?s, and it clocked surprisingly fast speeds in New York City. Averaged across our 13 testing cities, the T-Mobile 3G network showed an average download speed of 868 kbps--very close to Verizon?s average speed of 877 kbps--and delivered an average upload speed of 311 kbps. T-Mobile tells its subscribers that they can expect upload speeds in the ?hundreds of kbps? and download speeds of up to 1 mbps.

T-Mobile clocked its fastest average download speeds in Chicago (1047 kbps), Phoenix (1201 kbps), Portland (1090 kbps), and New York City (1220 kbps). During one of our 1-minute speed tests in Manhattan, the T-Mobile network turned in an average download speed of 3 mbps, and registered burst speeds of up to 3.5 mbps. Speeds in the vicinity of 3 mbps are typically seen only in 4G networks.

T-Mobile?s network didn?t perform as well in other cities where we tested. The network reached its performance nadir in New Orleans, where we measured an average download speed of 570 kbps and an average upload speed of 181 kbps. Transfer speeds were so slow in tests conducted in the northern part of the city that the network was virtually unusable, according to Novarum?s Biba, who performed the tests.

Slow upload speeds were a recurring theme of our test results for the T-Mobile 3G network. T-Mobile registered average upload speeds of less than 300 kbps in 8 of our 13 testing cities. In upload speeds T-Mobile ranked lowest among the Big Four in 11 of the 13 cities.

Testing the HTC G1 on T-Mobile

In our smartphone-based tests, T-Mobile?s network connected with the HTC G1 reliably, but it didn?t support especially fast connection speeds to the device. We successfully established a solid connection with the T-Mobile/G1 combo in 93 percent of our attempts--the best reliability score of the four carrier/smartphone combos in our tests.

But the T-Mobile network delivered an average download speed to the G1 of only 719 kbps in our 13 testing cities--the slowest average in our smartphone test--and it connected at speeds exceeding 1000 kbps at only 13 percent of our testing locations. Upload speeds were lackluster, too: The G1 posted an average upload speed of134 kbps in our tests, the second lowest average in our smartphone study.

T-Mobile was the first carrier in the United States to support new Android phones like the G1, and it is the only 3G network available for the high-profile HTC/Google Nexus One. As Android phones continue to gain mainstream popularity, T-Mobile?s network will have to support more and more wireless data use. T-Mobile says that monthly demand for mobile its broadband increased by 275 percent during 2009. At last report (October 2009), T-Mobile had 2.8 million 3G smartphones connected to its network.

Compared to A&T and Verizon, T-Mobile?s wireless business is small, but the reach of its 3G network grew rapidly in 2009. At the beginning of that year, about 100 million people lived in areas where T-Mobile provides 3G service; today, the network is available to more than 200 million people in 271 U.S. cities, the company says. In January, T-Mobile announced that, like AT&T, it had finished converting its 3G network to the faster HSPA 7.2 technology, as promised.

The 3G network may be growing fast, but T-Mobile?s subscriber count seems to be increasing at a more leisurely pace. The company reported that it 33.4 million wireless subscribers at the end of the third quarter of 2009, up marginally from the 32.8 million it reported at the end of 2008.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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