Last week, BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk published the results of a mobile broadband study conducted in New York City. Piecyk used two smartphones -- the HTC Thunderbolt and HTC EVO 4G -- as mobile hotspots and collected more than 1,000 data points using them to serve as 4G modems. Piecyk used an Apple iPad 2 and a Toshiba laptop to connect to the respective hotspots and collect speed data.
With the Thunderbolt using Verizon's LTE network and the EVO 4G using Sprint's WiMax 4G network, it would appear to be a fair head-to-head battle.
Piecyk's observations concluded that Verizon's LTE 4G network averaged 9 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up, while Sprint's WiMax 4G network averaged near 1 Mbps both down and up. Piecyk saw Verizon's network reach a peak speed of 19 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. He also said that Verizon's network was more reliable, and provided better overall coverage.
Sprint calls Piecyk's results bogus.
"In a word, we find these tests inaccurate," Sprint spokesperson Stephanie Vinge-Walsh told the BGR website in an email. "We work closely with an independent third party research company, which reports regularly to us on real-world, scientifically tested speeds, and the results we see do not match what Piecyk found. We've recently seen speeds in NYC (inclusive of New Jersey) averaging 4 to 5 Mbps download."
The research firm's results are four to five times faster than what Piecyk claims to have observed in New York City. The WiMax tests that I've performed in New York in the last few months don't match Piecyk's results, either. I saw the same average speeds that Sprint's third-party research company reported.
"The Verizon 4G LTE network is very new so no one has any fully time-tested data on it yet," Vinge-Walsh continued. "As their network gets loaded and more than just one smartphone comes forward on their network, we can better assess its capabilities. In the early days of 4G for Sprint, we saw some very high speed numbers when the network was launched (much higher than our current speed claims), but what ultimately matters to customers is a consistent, long-standing experience based on a network loaded with customers."
This is very true. When Verizon first launched LTE in December 2010, the first set of speed tests by reviewers of the network were outlandishly fast. Many saw peak speeds in excess of 20 Mbps, while some even breached the 30 Mbps mark. Verizon only advertises that it will provide average speeds between 5 Mbps and 12 Mbps for downloads, so why were the initial tests so fast? The network was nearly empty. Only a few dozen people were using it, not tens or hundreds of thousands. With all that capacity to themselves, of course the initial batch of results was going to skew abnormally high.
The same still applies. Though it has been a full four months since the LTE network launched, the network is still essentially empty. Verizon offers several laptop dongles, two mobile hotspots (just launched last week), and the Thunderbolt smartphone (launched a couple weeks ago).
"While speed tests will come and go, Sprint continues to offer consumers a dependable 4G network, more 4G devices and a better 4G value -- with the only truly unlimited 4G -- and we will continue to invest in expanding and enhancing Sprint 4G," said Vinge-Walsh.
Sprint's WiMax network is live in approximately 70 markets across the U.S. Verizon's LTE network is live in 39 cities and 60 airports.