AT&T Is The Fastest Carrier: PCMag Report
June 19, 2013

AT&T Wins Fastest Carrier For The Second Time In As Many Months

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon each claim their network is either the fastest or the largest to sway potential customers to sign up with one of their plans. Common sense tells us that this simply can't be so. One company has to be the fastest (based on a simple set of rules) and one has to be the largest.

Understanding which carrier ultimately wins these trophies can be hard work, but PCMag stood up to the challenge and drove over 20,000 miles across the US to put this debate to rest and determine a winner once and for all. After all that driving (using electric cars, mind you) PCMag's researchers ultimately found AT&T's 4G LTE to be the fastest network in the Northeast, Southwest and most metropolitan areas in between. In rural and Suburban areas, Verizon's 4G LTE came out on top, handily beating all other networks.

The executives at AT&T are likely riding high after this report, the second independent study in as many months which placed the company above the rest in terms of speed.

Cellular coverage is a completely relative ballgame. What works best in one area of the nation might not work for another. It's often suggested that anyone looking to switch carriers look for the best and fastest coverage in the area where they´re most likely to spend the majority of their time.

At the end of their extensive research, Sascha Segan said the common belief that holds AT&T as the fastest and Verizon as the most reliable hold true according to their data. He also gave T-Mobile's new LTE high marks, saying it “looked great in the few cities where we could find it." As for Sprint, Segan said the carrier performed just as they did last year by not topping any of their charts but taking bigger strides to become a contender in the new LTE market.

The PCMag team armed themselves with eight Galaxy Note IIs to run their tests, one for every network they surveyed. They tested the older networks of the carriers, such as Sprint and Verizon's CDMA and AT&T and T-Mobile's UMTS/HSPA bands, as well as the newer LTE networks. They hooked each of these eight phablets up to a power inverter to keep the phones running all day and then loaded them into two Ford C-Max Energi Cars and One Ford Fusion Energi. Each of the Galaxy devices were running a network testing app for Android called Sensorly which took measurements once every three minutes during business hours between March 1 and March 29, 2013.

With this app the PCMag crew was looking for some specific scores, like ping time, multi-threaded HTTP upload and download, and the time it took to download a 4MB file and upload a 2MB file. As they drove from city to city (including Austin, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Portland, Seattle and many others) they collected data both while in these metropolitan areas and in the rural areas between them.

After driving thousands of miles and conducting tests every three minutes, they were left with an overflowing abundance of data, enough to fill a 136MB Excel spreadsheet.

Last month PCWorld and TechHive released the results of their own research and while their report isn't nearly as extensive as PC Mag's, their findings are ultimately the same. Just like PC Mag, TechHive found that AT&T was the fastest all around carrier with T-Mobile making some impressive strides. Verizon was found to be the most “pervasive" of the networks, while Sprint suffered low marks for its sluggishness in urban areas.