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“4G” Showdown: Tale of the Tape

Now that the Verizon Wireless (s vz) 4G network has a launch date of Dec. 5 and pricing attached, let’s take a look at how it stacks up to the competition. The term 4G, mind you, is a bit muddled as no service currently offers true 4G speeds.

Ss Verizon Wireless CTO Tony Melone said, this is a “generational” bump up in performance: 10x compared to the Verizon’s existing 3G network. But Verizon is still trailing Sprint’s (s s) rollout of WiMAX, which has come on strong lately with deployments in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Meanwhile, T-Mobile has rebranded its HSPA+ network as a 4G network, because it can deliver competitive speeds, and we haven’t even talked about AT&T (s t), which is also rolling out HSPA+, and has plans to roll out LTE in 2011, which it reminded us about today.

So what should you consider in a “4G” network? Here’s a look at three of the largest carriers touting high-performance 4G networks today:

4G Service Providers Verizon Wireless (LTE) Sprint/Clearwire (WiMAX) T-Mobile (HSPA+ 21)
Speed – download 5-12 Mbps 3-6 Mbps 5-8 Mbps
Speed – upload 2-5 Mbps 1 Mbps 2.4 Mbps in tests
Coverage by end of 2010 110 million people 120 million people 200 million
Prices (modem) $50 for 5 GB/month 

$80 for 10 GB/month

$60 for unlimited data on 4G + 

5 GB on 3G

$25 for 200 MB/month 

$40 for 5GB/month

Devices Two USB modems Two handsets, portable hotspots, modems. Two phones and modems

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17 Responses to ““4G” Showdown: Tale of the Tape”

  1. Why did they include T-Mobile’s HSPA+ in the comparison but not AT&T’s HSPA+ network (which covers 80% of their subscribers). I guess they only include them if they “call” it 4G.

  2. No US carrier offers 4G. So let’s stop pretending like it is. If you wish to understand what exactly 4G is, refer to its definition by the International Telecommunication Union.

    It is a shame that the carriers have misused the term 4G in its marketing efforts in order to attract new users.

    • 4G is not an official measurement nor a certified specification (with anyone outside of the ITU). 4G simply means 4th Generation. If the ITU can say that “EDGE” is 3G, I certainly don’t see how LTE can be put in the same category. I see no problem with carriers calling it 4G. As far as I’m concerned, it is 4G.

  3. Rebecca Woodcock

    All carriers will be moving to a tiered data plan pricing structure in the near future. The all-you-can-eat unlimited plans have proven to be unsustainable as a business model. Some will cap you at your limit, while other will charge more for additional usage. We may see more tethering add-on plans as a result. What the carriers will need to do is a better job at educating consumers as to how 200 MB vs 5 GB vs 10 GB translates to what they are actually doing. Most can’t tell the difference between what those numbers mean, let alone what they think they actually use.

  4. What about frequency? That’s another important factor to consider, lower frequencies penetrate solids better, allowing for much better indoor reception than higher frequencies.

      • A 2.5GHz antenna will outperform a 700 MHz antenna of the same physical size. It will be interesting to see who wins given the better antenna efficiency/gain available to a 2.5GHz handset.

      • Matt Liotta

        @Steve your statement is not correct. A 2.5Ghz antenna will have more gain than a 700Mhz antenna of the same size. However, gain does not equal performance as performance is more attributed to signal-to-noise ratio and higher gain increases both signal AND noise. Simply put, 700Mhz is going to have significantly less signal loss than 2.5Ghz over a given path.

  5. Clear and T-Mobile have good rates ($40-$45/month) without requiring a 2-year contract (which many people, including myself, don’t like). What is the contract term for Verizon’s pricing?

    T-Mobile’s 5G/month is, IIRC, still a soft cap; after 5G you can get throttled, but won’t get charged more.

    Clear has cheaper mobile plans ($45 and up) and combo plans (e.g. 2 mobile or home+mobile for $60/month).

    Also, you can get down to ~$40/month (2 year contract) on Sprint if you get an EVO 4G on the SRDO plans and tether; on a T-Mobile HSPA+ phone it’d be $45 month ($30 for data, $15 for tethering).

    Verizon’s low caps mean I wouldn’t even consider it for DSL/cable replacement.