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AT&T Named 3G Speed Champ



500x_3g_test_map_2009-w-sdGizmodo sent a bunch of 3G modems all over the U.S. to see how speedy various networks are. AT&T was the clear champ, with the fastest download times in six of the 12 markets. AT&T had the fastest upload speeds in all 12 markets. If you’re lucky to live and work in places with rock solid coverage from more than one network the speed tests could come in handy when figuring out which company to fork money over to.However, the tests don’t delve into coverage and reliability, issues that are much more important in my opinion.

I’ve been a loyal Sprint 3G customer for several years because the service always seems to just work when I need it. I’m also reluctant to experiment with other networks because Sprint has allowed me to stay on my $59 per month plan with unlimited data. Switching to AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile would result in a 5GB cap.

It doesn’t matter how fast your network is if a clear signal is missing in action. I’ve successfully used various modems on Sprint’s network in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona and California. I regularly use my MiFi to get my iPhone online and to place calls via Skype in AT&T dead zones in San Francisco.

Which 3G network do you currently subscribe to? Is speed a big factor in choosing a network or do you care more about something else?



  1. double_o_don

    12/30/2009 at 9:27 am

    As you say, top speed is irrelevant when there is no coverage.
    (I love the “there’s a map for that” campaign”)

    Although most carriers may not believe it, there are many businesses and potential customers who exist outside of the big cities, and even more incredibly, west of the Mississippi.

    As one of those non-urban customers who works for and with those non-urban companies I find that I can generally get by with 2 services.

    My personal contract is with Alltel (now Verizon) and my company contract (decided by offices east of the Mississippi) is with AT&T. The Verizon connection is used about 70% of the time and AT&T for about 30%.

  2. Paul Harrigan

    12/30/2009 at 12:25 pm

    The need for a connection actually applies to both networks.

    I was with Verizon for a long time, but my then home in Culver City (a city fully surrounded by Los Angeles) had continuous drops and a major client elsewhere in Los Angeles had no signal at all. These problems lasted for years.

    Going to AT&T solved both.

    I agree that their network is oversold and under built, but it’s not just a one-way issue.

  3. Oliver

    12/30/2009 at 2:18 pm

    I had the same unlimited Sprint data plan (actually cheaper, I think I paid about $50 due to corporate discounts) and reluctantly abandoned it when free or cheap wifi became more ubiquitous (eg thanks to the SBUX switch to AT&T). I just couldn’t justify the cost when I only really needed it a few times a month — now generally covered by IPhone). But yeah, I always had good coverage, and that was the most important feature.

  4. Dennnisvjames

    12/31/2009 at 1:23 pm

    For me in the Seattle area, AT&T didn’t have coverage. I would get drops on 5 (freeway) and almost everywhere else around here every day. My wife would get drops. Now that we have Sprint (which also allows voice but not data roaming on Verizon), we never have a problem and we pay less $$$. Maybe Verizon should do an ad campaign on “Left AT&T because their coverage sucked.” :-)

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