You know that “4G” carriers keep talking about? PC World did some tests on it recently. I was about to point out the fact that they used 3G phones – an iPhone 4 for AT&T and a Droid 2 for Verizon – in a 4G test as a major flaw when I realized that in fact it reveals just how awful Sprint and T-Mobile’s “4G” claims are. Take a look at the 2 charts below:
The first chart shows which smartphone was used to test each carrier:
The second chart shows the average speeds for each carrier:
Notice how all the speeds in each column of the second chart are basically the same order of magnitude? While many blogs picked this story up as a victory for T-Mobile, the fact is that it’s nothing more than a huge embarassment. The ITU originally defined 4G speeds as being 100 Mbps while stationary (they’ve since significantly relaxed the rules, a lot more on that here). Nothing on the above chart is anywhere close to that. Remember when, during the transition from dialup to broadband, ISPs would advertise their service as being 10x or more faster than the competition’s dialup service? That made broadband sound worth the extra money. Neither T-Mobile nor Sprint can say that about their 4G service relative to AT&T or Verizon’s 3G service. While it’s certainly an improvement, it’s no quantum leap.
Personally the above also seriously dampens my enthusiasm for “4G” handsets. Unless I start seeing tests that show 4G speeds that are at least 10x 3G speeds, I’m not sure 4G service or capabilty is a significant differentiator among handsets and/or carriers. This might also explain why Motorola and Verizon are OK with releasing the upcoming Droid X2 and Droid 3 without 4G capability. After all, Droid N (where N is a number) models have always been Verizon flagships. It could be that Verizon is aware that their “4G” service won’t be offering any significant advantage over 3G for a while.