Study: T-Mobile offers fastest 3G, AT&T has quickest 4G

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Wondering which wireless carrier has the fastest network? PCWorld set out to answer that question, testing several handsets indoors and outdoors across Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. through 2011 and 2012.

T-Mobile had a strong showing, offering the fastest overall 3G performance with download speeds averaging 3.84Mb/s and uploads averaging 1.44Mb/s. By comparison, AT&T came in second with 2.62Mb/s and 0.85Mb/s, Verizon followed with rates of 1.05Mb/s and 0.75Mb/s, and Sprint came in last with 0.59Mb/s and 0.56Mb/s.

T-Mobile exhibited some of the largest increases in 3G performance in the last year, with downloads jumping from 2.56Mb/s to 3.7Mb/s and uploads going from 0.92Mb/s to 1.41Mb/s. The company also fared best when PCWorld measured indoor 4G performance changes (T-Mobile gained 18.40%, everyone else lost speed).

However, AT&T and Verizon aced T-Mobile in overall 4G performance. The former outfit provided the fastest average 4G download speeds at 9.12Mb/s, while the latter offered the quickest average 4G upload rates at 5.86Mb/s. It's worth noting that the data excludes cities where the companies don't actually have 4G coverage.

Sprint was the all-around loser, offering the worst average 3G and 4G speeds, as well as the most indoor lag when measuring 4G performance (-12.70%, roughly twice the dip experienced on AT&T and Verizon). PCWorld concluded that Sprint has stopped developing its networks while looking to shift 4G from WiMax to LTE.

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