AT&T turned on its 4G LTE network Sunday, bringing faster internet speeds to customers in Charlotte, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. That brought AT&T’s high speed wireless service to a total of 15 market. The company said it plans to reach 70 million U.S. customers by year’s end.
Since Alldaytech.com is headquartered in Charlotte, NC–aka the Queen City–the folks at AT&T were nice enough to offer a demonstration of the AT&T 4G LTE service at its Charlotte flagship store, as well as outfit us with an HTC Vivid 4G LTE phone to try the service in the wild.
In the store–a futuristic set-up with beautiful flat screen TVs and display stations–we saw download speeds of 13 megabits down per second on a pretty 8.9-inch Samsung tablet device. Of course, the store was probably optimized to return great results.
Using the service in the field was a little different.
Our initial review after playing with the AT&T 4G LTE service around town? Stop us if this sounds familiar…but when you get an AT&T signal, you REALLY get an AT&T signal.
In the photo that accompanies this story, you’ll see the Speed Test app results for the HTC Vivid smartphone on AT&T 4G LTE vs. the HTC Rezound (the “Beats Audio” phone) on Verizon. Verizon is on the left. Those were taken inside today (11/21) about noon.
Both phones showed about “2 bars” worth of signal during the times of those tests. The AT&T fluctuated between 4G LTE and AT&T’s “other” 4G, HSPA+ — which you should simply think of as an advanced version of 3G. We only showed the LTE results in the photo.
When LTE is not available, AT&T’s LTE phones will drop back to HSPA+ and speeds are strong, averaging about 5 megabytes down per second. For comparison, most Verizon and Sprint phones we’ve tested, via their 3G signal, return less than 1.5 MB down. You’ll notice the lack of speed when trying to send an attachment or streaming a movie. So, if you’re ever in an area that doesn’t have Verizon 4G and you drop to 3G, there is a tremendous speed drop. With AT&T, as long as you get signal, there won’t be.
Still, Verizon’s speeds indoors were nearly twice as fast as AT&T on average during tests at the first location.
In a different location, near a school on the south side of town, AT&T’s 4G LTE hit 3 and 4 bars and returned 22 megabits down, inside and out, besting Verizon which returned 18-20. Of course, Verizon’s network is being used by thousands of customers and AT&T’s is much newer, but these numbers are promising.
I was able to get AT&T “4G” and 4G LTE signal on the HTC Vivid in spots where I couldn’t get much of a signal on the AT&T iPhone 4S. And even when the LTE service wasn’t available, tasks like uploading large files, sending photos and watching YouTube were much responsive on the Vivid running AT&T’s “other 4G” than iPhone, which is quite speedy on AT&T’s good ol’ 3G network in its own right.
I really liked being able to load up YouTube “HQ” videos and have them play instantly without any pauses via the 4G LTE. You could scroll almost instantly across the span of the video as soon as the video started playing, which was nearly instantly.
Think of using 4G LTE pretty much the way you use the Internet on your home broadband network. It felt about the same to me.
We’ve seen this type of performance via Verizon 4G LTE for some time, but it’s nice to see that kind of quick responsiveness on Ma Bell.
Overall, in multiple locations, we averaged about 8 megabits down via AT&T’s 4G LTE. That’s slightly better than what we’ve seen from Sprint’s WiMax around town but decidedly slower than Verizon, which has consistently returned an average of 12-14 down. I’m sure AT&T will tweak its network as it’s new. I’d expect speeds to get better.
The biggest difference between Verizon and AT&T, however, was consistency. Where I got super fast AT&T signal sometimes, it just wasn’t everywhere. As the signal degraded, so did speeds. With Verizon, almost everywhere you went you saw speeds faster than many people have at home.
AT&T has good coverage in Charlotte and that may or may not be true for your city, but 4G LTE looks like it might help improve signal strength issues and it certainly improves speed. Is it enough to buy a new device? If you’re spying a new Android phone and you like AT&T, the Vivid is a solid entry, and there’s a bunch of new Android devices on the way, too.
I don’t think I would be signing a contract on anything Android that wasn’t 4G LTE on AT&T. And if you’re an Apple person and you didn’t bite on the iPhone 4S, I’d wait for a 4G LTE iPhone sometime next year.
Can’t wait to see where AT&T goes with its network moving forward, but the speed is better than anything ever on the network. Even when you don’t get the 4G LTE signal, at least in Charlotte, speeds and signal quality and calls didn’t fall off the map; neither did coverage.
Verizon is still better on coverage, but with this move AT&T is clearly trying to climb the ladder to the top.