Kevin Hunt: How Fast Is Your Wireless Phone Service? (Hartford Tests Are In)


File picture of a T-Mobile store sign

File picture of a T-Mobile store sign (RICK WILKING / REUTERS / June 5, 2014)

T-Mobile, out of nowhere, is pushing AT&T and Verizon as Hartford area's fastest, most reliable wireless service based on the latest independent test results.

With 4G LTE, maybe anything's possible. After adding the high-speed service (translated: fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution) in Greater Hartford last year, T-Mobile has finished a close third in the mid-2014 performance report from RootMetrics.

AT&T, with a 97.6 score, and Verizon (97.5) remain in a virtual dead heat as the area's top carriers, but T-Mobile's 93.8 puts it much closer to first than to last-place Sprint (82.1) among the four major carriers. RootMetrics, an independent mobile research and testing organization in Seattle, says the scores released last week reflect a consumer's "experience of network performance."

RootMetrics, in its mid-2013 report, rated the pre-LTE T-Mobile (78.7) and Sprint (76.8) as clear last resorts for consumers shopping for a high-performance wireless provider. This year, using 25,034 mobile tests conducted in March, Sprint stands as Hartford's slowest, least reliable carrier. Maybe it's wait-till-next-year: Sprint has agreed to buy T-Mobile in a deal valued at $32 billion.

AT&T and Verizon are close in every category except upload speeds, where AT&T (11.9 megabits per second) is more than twice as fast as second-place Verizon (5.3) and more than eight times faster than Sprint (1.4).

A&T finished slightly ahead of Verizon in overall performance for the first time last year after introducing 4G LTE in the Hartford area. Now Verizon is promising even faster speeds as Hartford becomes one of the first New England areas on the XLTE Network, which compensates for network congestion during peak use periods. Verizon says it has more than doubled the bandwidth of its LTE network in Hartford in the past six months.

"Theoretical peak speeds are great," says Michael Murphy, Verizon's public relations manager for New England, "but if your network doesn't have the capacity to bring you on [them], those theoretical speeds are not going to be much of a consolation — which is why the more than doubling of capacity in our network in Hartford is so important."

Verizon doesn't promise specific speed increases, but it does cite tests at GottaBeMobile.com showing XLTE speeds doubling AT&T's 4G LTE in testing in the Midwest. (Don't expect those results in Hartford.)

The RootMetrics mid-2014 results:

Reliability

1. AT&T (99.5)

1. Verizon (99.4)

3. T-Mobile (95.7)

4. Sprint (87.7)

Speed

1. AT&T (90.8)

1. Verizon (90.5)

3. T-Mobile (86)

4. Sprint (67.5)

Data

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