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12/20/2010
10:01 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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T-Mobile Lays (Dubious) Claim To Fastest Data Network

T-Mobile said today that, based on third-party research, its data network is the fastest in the top 100 U.S. markets. There's more than one problem with that claim.

Between June and November 2010, an unnamed third-party company drove through the top 100 U.S. markets (based on population) and determined that T-Mobile offers the fastest wireless data performance. The testing company downloaded and uploaded files using laptop dongles from each of the four major carriers as part of its process.

"2010 was a banner year for T-Mobile’s network expansion," said Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer for T-Mobile USA, in a prepared statement. "We have deployed fiber backhaul to our cell sites to deliver an industry leading mobile data experience on the latest T-Mobile smartphones and broadband devices. Today, we are delivering the fastest data performance in the top 100 U.S. markets on average, and it’s only going to get faster as we upgrade our network to offer 42Mbps capability in 2011."

Hold on there, T-Mobile.

First, AT&T has long laid claim to the "fastest network" title. According to AT&T's third-party tests, its 3G network delivers the fastest wireless broadband speeds. Although, to be fair, AT&T never says what its fastest speeds are. To-date, it can only be confirmed that AT&T has deployed HSPA+ at 7.2Mbps. T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is deployed at 21Mbps. Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile are providing access to the test data.

The bigger problem is the testing period. The testing period ran from June to November of this year. Well, guess what happened in early December? Verizon Wireless launched its 4G Long Term Evolution network.

Based on every published test of Verizon's LTE network, Big Red has the fastest data network by a mile. Some reviews claimed to have reached 32Mbps download speeds. Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile's HSPA+ networks are capable of anything remotely close to that. The fastest speed I've seen with AT&T is in the low 5Mbps range, and the fastest with T-Mobile's is in the 14Mbps range.

T-Mobile says the data proves its "overall network outperformed all other nationwide networks tested." But the criteria aren't defined. Was it the best at average downloads? Peak downloads? What about upload average and peak speeds? Did T-Mobile pick one or all of these parameters as part of its calculations?

Data can be manipulated to reflect just about anything the manipulator wants. Based on my own observations (and the observations of many others), T-Mobile's claim is pure fiction.

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