Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mobile Data Shootout

Those clever folks at Engadget Labs just released the results of a test of the major 3G providers in the US. If you are interested in how these stack up, you should really take the time to click the link above and read the complete article. It's good.

One thing that I noted, which made me sigh, was this statement: "In every scenario, it's drastically cheaper to head overseas and pick up a prepaid data card from a local carrier -- like O2 in Germany, for example, which offers a USB data stick with a month of unlimited usage in the country for just €69.99 ($96). " All of the U.S. carriers charge $60 per month with a 5GB cap. (5GB lasts me about a week of travel as long as I don't do anything exotic like Hulu or web-browsing at highly interactive sites.) As usual, the other countries are far ahead of us in pricing services. Sigh, again.

Here are the highlights of the report:
  • AT&T's download rates obliterate the other guys. Seriously, it's not even close.
  • AT&T's upload rates are the strongest, though T-Mobile and Verizon held pretty close here.
  • Each carrier's average latency was right around 150ms, which will undoubtedly make online gamers (snipers, in particular) weep.
  • Sprint and Verizon's WWAN management software was far superior than that of AT&T and T-Mobile, and considering that T-Mobile's app won't run on a Mac yet, it gets yet another strike against it.
  • As always, your miles (or data rates, as it were) may vary depending on location, network saturation, wind speed and amount of fairy dust in your pocket, but we're pretty confident these data are a solid guide.
  • If you're used to thinking of upload and download rates in terms of KBps (much like you see when downloading a file in Firefox), here's the breakdown of that.
    • AT&T: 239.01KBps down; 77.95KBps up
    • Sprint: 121.27KBps down; 36.94 KBps up
    • T-Mobile: 127.33KBps down; 54.05KBps up
    • Verizon: 102.9KBps down; 63.22KBps up

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