24 Comments

Summary:

Verizon’s long-awaited LTE network goes live on Sunday, promising 4G speeds at 3G prices. We got a chance to test the network with an LTE USB dongle, and the mobile broadband network feels like a fast, wired network at home in every use case.

verizon-lte-speed-featured

Verizon Wireless’s LTE mobile broadband network, which the carrier is calling 4G, was introduced today, and goes live for consumers on Dec 5. We received a 4G USB stick from Verizon, the $99 LG VL600, to test the network, which will initially be available in 38 markets and 60 airports. Nearest me is the Phildelphia market, so I took a drive from my home office to the LTE coverage area to get some hands-on time with the new network. First impressions are everything, and my first speed test yielded a download rate comparable to my fast FiOS home network!

Yes, I expect to have good network performance on a network with one user, but at least some testing gives me a starting point. Verizon claims the new network offers half the network latency, and up to 10 times more speed than its 3G network. Using the SpeedTest.net site, I ran several tests against that claim and found very consistent results: an average of 11.7 Mbps for downloads, 5.6 Mbps for uploads and network latency nearly always at 42 milliseconds. For now, then, Verizon’s LTE network delivers on the carrier’s 4G promise, and it does so at 3G prices.

Speed tests are just a benchmark, though. How does the network perform when you actually use it? No matter what I threw at it, Verizon’s LTE network made me feel as if I were on my home Wi-Fi connection, where I have 20 Mbps fiber-to-the-home service. I had a video chat with my son, for example, and he thought I was at home on my fast wired network. I downloaded the iTunes application — a 78.3 MB piece of software — in just over 90 seconds, then uploaded that same file to Dropbox in about 3 minutes. Surfing page after page of the web was speedy, and watching a high-quality YouTube video was like watching a locally stored video: The 3:33-minute media was fully loaded in just under 40 seconds. Overall, my real world speeds didn’t equate to the basic speed test results, but were impressive nonetheless.

 

The LG VL 600  modem is a bit bulkier than mobile broadband dongles I’ve used in the past, but that makes sense, since the device has to support two different network technologies. In a 4G coverage area, it connects to Verizon’s new LTE network, but outside of that, the device must fall back to EVDO for 3G coverage. I haven’t tested that fallback yet, but on a conference call this morning, Verizon said the transition from 4G to 3G is fairly seamless. From 3G to 4G isn’t quite as fast though; the device won’t transition to the faster network until it becomes idle. That transition could mean a pause in video watching or a download while the device switches networks.

We’ll have to re-test the network once Verizon actually gets customers on it, but for now, the network performs like a champ. Before jumping on-board, however, it may be worth waiting a few weeks for additional LTE devices. The LG VL600 is available on Sunday, while a Pantech model follows soon after. Verizon said it expects to add several more LTE data devices over the coming weeks and months. I can’t help but think a portable hotspot unit would great to share the LTE goodness with several devices like my iPad! One other downside for now: the LG VL600 doesn’t support the Mac OS X operating system, so Mac users definitely want to hold off or plan to use Verizon’s new network with Boot Camp or a virtual machine.

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  1. Hoping their hotspot device would be smaller than the Sprint Overdrive.

  2. Yeah great speeds but horrible caps .What good is high speed when you get 5 gig cap or 10 gig cap?

    1. Two ways of looking at it: you’re capped or you’re buying a fixed amount. ;)

      Either way, you’re right: the situation is likely to pose a budgeting problem for some because the faster the connection, the more people tend to consumer with it. FWIW, Verizon is offering overage purchases at $10 per GB after using what your plan allows – I know that doesn’t solve the problem from your standpoint, but thought it worth the mention.

  3. Verizon 4G LTE network: First hands-on tests impress : Online Social Media Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    [...] 5 and we also recently gave details of data pricing plans. Now an article by Kevin C. Tofel over on Gigaom has attracted our attention as he’s had a chance to hands-on test the new 4G LTE network and was [...]

  4. Randomisernameuser Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    The network is already loaded. What you are getting is real world speeds.

    1. Verizon has always shown that it completely understands the state of the telecom business and this is no exception. I really like the fact that you can blast through the 5GB cap in a little over hour at these speeds. That alone makes it worth every penny. If only they could extract that kind of money out of their wireline business.

  5. Verizon 4G To Go Live December 5 – ThinkMobile Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    [...] with real-world download speeds at 5 to 12 megabits per second and upload speeds of 2 to 5 Mbps. Kevin Tofel got a chance to try the new network in Philadelphia and reports that he saw average download speeds of 11.7 Mbps and 5.6 Mbps upload [...]

  6. Mac users can get on LTE now — they will just need to buy a Cradlepoint (or similar) mobile router to use … thus setting up LTE-MiFi.

  7. Zack Lee Wright Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Wow, once you get use to these speeds there ain’t no going back to the stone-age 3G pigeon delivery speeds that’s for sure.

    BTW, I agree with Big Red execs that most customers will migrate to the 10gig($80/mo) plan because the multimedia, gaming, streaming is just like soooooo addictive you will be shocked at how much data you quickly consume.

    Good to see somebody giving T-mobile (current speed leader) some hefty competition. It’s all good for us consumers.

  8. Sweet, Sprint’s 4G is currently on in most major cities, gives me over 9 down and 5 up sitting inside a spot in a large building where GSM carriers don’t get signal at all, and has no bandwidth cap. This being after the official release and multiple people on it. Oh yeah, and through my phone, not an air card. Have fun with your expensive capped Verizon plan though that charges extra for everything you do while I call any mobile number I want for free and enjoy 7 nights and weekends, literally using 150 out of 1500 minutes a month. But don’t you just love Verizon?

  9. Verizon LTE Speed Test: Insanely Fast | Gizmodo Australia Friday, December 3, 2010

    [...] amazed at these speeds, finally available in America. [Engadget, MSNBC, Slashgear, Network World, GigaOM] Tagged:3g4gltenetworksonly in [...]

  10. KBO- sprint 4g isn’t in most major cities, only 3 including vegas…misleading advertising works, read the small print! verizon launches in 38 and more airports…majority coverage to come in 6 mo or so

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