March 5, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Not all 4G is created equal. We’ve discussed the trouble with the “4G” label and how the differences in network technology employed by the different carriers leads to inconsistent arguments about 4G vs Faux G.
Verizon, the only major U.S. carrier to widely deploy a 4G LTE network, is reminding users of that argument in a YouTube video. While it doesn’t directly bring up the LTE vs. HSPA+ vs. WiMax argument aside from some small text, the company does poke AT&T and Sprint for being unable to keep up in a direct speed battle. Of course, that’s to be expected given the cherry-picked results.
In the 4G Throw Down, a perky host challenges folks on the street to see whose network is fastest. Starting in my hometown of Miami, a Verizon Droid Razr bested an AT&T Galaxy S II. Of course, I could have told you that since we don’t have LTE from anyone but Verizon in Miami. Results might have been different had Verizon traveled up the Turnpike and challenged AT&T in Orlando, a place where both companies have LTE service. AT&T would have won, but probably only because there are significantly fewer users on AT&T’s LTE network in Orlando.
With few exceptions in the U.S. market, LTE is going to be faster than HSPA+ and WiMax. It’s more realistic to compare 4G LTE vs. 4G LTE, and none of the markets in which that comparison is possible are featured in this video. You’ll probably see a lot of speed test arguments this year as AT&T and Sprint play catch-up in LTE, but a comparison in which the odds are clearly in Verizon’s favor don’t really tell us much. (Though, you do have to give Verizon credit for actually having an LTE network so much longer than the competition.)
Regardless of who’s side you take in the “real 4G” debate, all that matters is who has the best network. We’ve seen Verizon suffer multiple LTE outages, and the company is still working to stabilize its growth. Verizon recently reported that about 5 percent of its customers are on LTE, meaning it probably has about 4.5 million customers on the LTE network. Until we see AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have similar used-on-a-daily-basis LTE networks widely deployed, it’s obvious who’s going to win most 4G Throwdowns. What’s meaningful is how much that 4G data is going to cost, how much of that 4G data users will be able to access, and how often that 4G data will be readily available to customers.