Samsung Galaxy S III 4G Showdown: T-Mobile HSPA+ v. AT&T LTE (Video)

Of the three national carriers that are launching the Galaxy S III in late June–AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile USA–only two carriers have an operating 4G network of some variety when the third-generation flagship Samsung smartphone launches: T-Mobile and AT&T. In this article, we’re going to test out the fastest mobile broadband networks available to both these 4G carriers and see what the resulting speeds are.

AT&T has 4G HSPA+ and 4G LTE networks up and running, and its Galaxy S III device will support both protocols and will default to 4G LTE where available. AT&T’s 4G LTE network is boasted as being 10 times faster than its 3G network and up to 3 times faster than its HSPA+ network. T-Mobile USA has one of the fastest HSPA+ network available and the carrier has announced plans to switch to LTE. T-Mobile’s variant of the Galaxy S III is limited  to HSPA+. Lastly, Sprint, a carrier that was the first in the U.S. to deploy 4G with WiMax technology, is making the switch to LTE. Unfortunately for the CDMA/EVDO Now Network, that switch is still on-going and Sprint doesn’t yet have 4G LTE deployed. That means Sprint owners who are early adopters of the Galaxy S III will be stuck on 3G CDMA/EVDO speeds. That said, when LTE is available, Sprint’s variant will be able to hop onto 4G LTE and its Galaxy S III is an LTE-ready device waiting for a network.

Let’s see how AT&T’s LTE fares against T-Mobile’s HSPA+:

Video:

AT&T was able to get download speeds between 8-30 Mbps in the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California where its LTE network is available. The Galaxy S III managed downloads between 2-10 Mbps on AT&T.

AT&T's 4G LTE performance is strong and fast

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On T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, speeds were not bad and we’re seeing latency levels almost comparable to LTE with low ping rates, which is a good thing. Download speeds hovered around 10 Mbps and uploads were between 1-3 Mbps.

T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ network holds its own ground against faster 4G LTE networks

In general, T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network is nothing to scoff at. Most users will appreciate the network and you generally won’t be able to notice a 10 Mbps network compared to a 20 Mbps LTE network on a smartphone. Streaming videos, music, browsing the web, checking email, and updating Facebook were speedy on HSPA+ on T-Mobile.

The area that users may be concerned about is if they use their phones for tethering. Single device tethering is fine, but tethering multiple devices and users to the same Galaxy S III for a hotspot using T-Mobile as its backbone may slow down speeds more quickly than the more generous speeds of AT&T’s LTE. That said, HSPA+ does have a strong advantage going for it in the form of battery life. HSPA+ is less power hungry than LTE and you’ll be able to squeeze a little bit more power out of your T-Mobile Galaxy S III than an LTE Galaxy S III on AT&T.

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Additionally, you can also see how AT&T’s HSPA+ network stacks up against T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network in an earlier speedtest that we had performed as well.

Comments

  1. jd says

    HSPA+ is more than good enough for a phone (or even broadband at home). Realistically, LTE speed is overkill.

  2. Tyler says

    Next time be sure and run speed tests from the same server, and test a few different servers to see which one gives the best results.

  3. saul says

    Agree with Tyler. This comparison is horrible..The data and variables are not consistent. Also, how is a 1083ms Ping comparable to 59ms Ping? I’ll take 59ms please..

    @jd, H+ good enough for a phone or HOME INTERNET! You must of recently got off of 56k dial-up!

    • saul says

      Sorry I was basing my comment on the screenshots. After watching the video the pings are a little better. You should still retest on the same servers for consistent results.

  4. Sean says

    I did not think this test says much about which one is better. It’s not all about speed, its about speed and reliability. Of course when your in the middle of SF your going to get the top speeds of any network. Although, you could have been in a good area for LTE and not Tmobile’s hspa+. Tmobile have been labeled by many as having a very reliable network. I personally have not seen the 4g LTE symbol show on the guy at my job’s Samsung Galaxy S3, but it may just be the area that he’s in. Remember, AT&T’S LTE roll out is still very new.

  5. Keem says

    Wth That was an unfair match T Mobile’s phone barely had any bars it was bouncing between edge And 4g while AT&T had more bars and was on 4g lite then they have 2 different servers so it was not really in even mass again on the download up

  6. Keem says

    That was an unfair match T Mobile’s phone barely had any bars it was bouncing between edge And 4g while AT&T had more bars and was on 4g lite then they have 2 different servers locations when he did the speed test so it wasnt really evenly matched

  7. Joe D OC says

    It is outrageous that Sprint is still charging customers an extra $10 for “Premium Data Services” (4G devices; WiMax & LTE), but do not provide LTE coverage yet! In my case the projected date for LTE service in my area is April 2013. Basically, I’ll be paying $50 for something that I can’t use… BS! Anyone else feel a class action lawsuit coming along? I sure hope something is done to address this!

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