If you live in Boston, here's a good reason to have Verizon Wireless as your carrier. First, courtesy of @michaelrestivo, I read an article talking about the lame marketing efforts of companies like AT&T to brand today's HSPA+ networks as "4G". You have likely seen the ads plastered all around the city advertising this, when in fact they have made little investment or technology changes compared to the new LTE network that Verizon just rolled out. Here was my favorite quote:
Even if HSPA+ networks may beat LTE someday, they don’t today. If you’ve got an HSPA+ device (like the iPhone 4S), you’re likely to achieve download speeds of between 1 and 3 megabits per second. That’s about half the speed of the average U.S. home broadband connection. An LTE device (like the new iPad), meanwhile, will let you download at speeds of 5 to 12 megabits per second, according to both AT&T and Verizon. That’s about on par with your home broadband line. In practice, then, real 4G handily beats faux 4G.
For wireless carriers, though, real 4G networks—that is, LTE networks—are expensive and time consuming to install. In 2010, T-Mobile decided that it would focus on improving its 3G network rather than build out its LTE capabilities. The company began touting that its new HSPA+ network could offer “4G speeds.” This marketing trickery was criticized by everyone in the industry, including AT&T. “I think that companies need to be careful that they're not misleading customers by labeling HSPA+ as a 4G technology. We aren't labeling those technologies as 4G,” an AT&T spokesman said back then.
But now AT&T has changed its mind. Mark Siegel, a spokesman, told me that the company’s about-face came as a result of a 2010 decision by the International Telecommunications Union that HSPA+ could be referred to as a “4G.” This change is very convenient for AT&T, because while its LTE network is smaller than Verizon’s, its HSPA+ network is the largest in the country. If 4G is taken to mean LTE, then AT&T loses to Verizon in the coverage wars. But if both HSPA+ and LTE are 4G, then AT&T’s network looks really great, and its claim that it’s the largest 4G carrier in the country isn’t total balderdash.
Later that day I stumbled across another article that features an infographic based not on an alphabet soup of technologies like CDMA, LTE, or HSPA+, but real live data based on two iphone apps that SwayMarkets produces (DataMonitor, which keeps tabs on your monthly data usage so you don't incur extra fees, and NetSnaps, which tells you how the WiFi or wireless network is performing where you are). It shows that based on real time usage Verizon is clearly the leader in signal strength, speed, and low latency (shortest response times by servers basically). Bottom line: if performance is your only consideration, you should go with Verizon Wireless.