Kevin Hunt - The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line
April 6, 2013
Got AT&T LTE? If so, your wireless service is the fastest, most reliable in Greater Hartford.
AT&T? For those who thought this is Verizon territory, the latest performance report from RootMetrics released March 29 shows how far AT&T has come since installing high-speed 4G LTE (as in fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution) service here as part aof a $750 million wireless-network upgrade in the state the past three years.
AT&T's increased data speeds pushed it past Verizon into first place, for the first time, in combined performance that includes data, call and text. Yet AT&T had no clear advantage over Verizon in any category — the report establishes them as Greater Hartford's new No. 1 and 1A carriers. AT&T finished first with a 97 score, ahead of Verizon (94), T-Mobile (78) and Sprint (77).
For texts and calls, T-Mobile and Sprint were comparable to top two. For downloading email, using the Web or apps and overall network speed, however, AT&T and Verizon were easily the best.
These snapshot averages do not guarantee always-fast, always-on service. Without a nearby tower, they don't mean much. Verizon, which completed a $256 million wireless-network upgrade last year in New England, says the RootMetrics report does not reflect its LTE coverage advantage over AT&T. (Here's Verizon's 4G LTE coverage map. Here's AT&T's coverage map.
'"While some competitors advertise 4G coverage, they often lack three letters — L-T-E," says Verizon spokesman Michael Murphy. "Among the four major wireless carriers, only Verizon Wireless' 4G network is 100 percent 4G LTE."
That, he says, is why Verizon's network was awarded New England's best in a J.D. Power customer survey released last month.
Here's a closer look at the RootMetrics study, which measured performance with 24,000 mobile tests.
Comment: If call performance is all you need in a mobile phone, look for the best deal from any of these carriers. AT&T and Verizon each had call-failure rates below 1 percent.
In the previous report, released last October, 3.8 percent of AT&T calls failed. An astounding 7.6 percent of Sprint calls and 6.2 percent of T-Mobile calls failed in that report. Both showed dramatic improvement in the March report, with Sprint's failure rate 2.2 percent and T-Mobile 1.4 percent.
Comment: AT&T wins this upload/download race. In the pre-LTE October report, AT&T registered download speeds of 3.7 megabits per second and upload speeds of 0.9 Mbps.
In the March study, AT&T downloaded at 20 megabits per second and uploaded at 9.1 Mbps, ahead of Verizon (13, 6.6), T-Mobile (7.5, 1.6) and Sprint (2.5, 0.7).
At these speeds, it would take a Sprint or T-Mobile subscriber up to 45 seconds to post a Facebook photo and less than a second for an AT&T subscriber to post the same photo. AT&T and Verizon subscribers can stream a high-definition video with a 30-second buffer — the process or downloading data before starting the video to prevent disruption — where a Sprint subscriber would need a 2-minute buffer and expect some dropped frames.
AT&T, in RootMetrics' tests, downloaded 10 emails in two seconds, slightly faster than Verizon (2.8 seconds). T-Mobile (5.9) and Sprint (7.0) were the laggards. AT&T (0.4 seconds) and Verizon (0.3) also loaded Web pages and apps much faster than Sprint (1.6) and T-Mobile (1.8)
Comment: Each of the carriers downloaded texts in less than 10 seconds at least 90 percent of the time.
Home Phone:The Best Service
A reader survey in the May issue of Consumer Reports rated two phone services that make calls over the Internet — Ooma and Vonage — over any cable or satellite service available in this state.
The rankings, with services available in the area that finished among the 25 rated services:
Ooma (Voice over Internet Protocol)
4. Vonage (VoIP)
8. Cablevision (cable)
10. Cox (cable)
15. AT&T U-verse (fiber-optic/copper cabling)
19. Comcast (cable)
24. AT&T (landline)
Comment: Ooma is a Bottom Line favorite, too, that requires only two things: an Ooma Telo base station ($150, sometimes discounted to $120 and even $100 for a refurbished unit) and broadband Internet service.
The free basic service includes calls in the United States, caller ID/call waiting and voicemail. Monthly taxes should run less than $4. If you want to keep your current phone number, porting it to the Ooma system costs $40. After that, your phone service is free.
It's a better deal than Vonage, where the most popular service costs $9.99 a month for three months, then $26 a month. Because these VoIP services are linked to your broadband connection, when you lose Internet in the house you also lose phone service.
Consumer Reports notes that buying a "triple play" package from a cable or satellite provider that includes television, phone and Internet services still might be cheaper. Not in this case: After buying an Ooma base station, TBL's cable bill dropped more than $30.
Some households save even more money by dropping in-home phones altogether while using mobile phones exclusively.
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