I have, and I've been pondering for a while how to figure out the best way to quantify the performance of that most fluid of mediums: wireless networks. Specifically, the new 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Verizon Wireless . (See What We Mean When We Say '4G'.)
Well, Verizon now has over 370 LTE networks live. AT&T has 72 live markets and Sprint brings up the rear with 24. AT&T is aiming to have 100 markets live by year's end and Sprint is gunning to have service up in more than 100 town and cities in the coming months. (See iPhone 5: Which 4G Carrier to Pick?)
So I contacted Seattle-based mobile network metrics company RootMetrics to see if they could quantify what the current top 4G LTE cities are. RootMetrics tests networks across "the top 75 urbanized areas" in the U.S. (See iPhone 5 Could Cause Local Data Crunches in US.)
Here's what CEO Bill Moore laid out as the top performing markets for each carrier in the U.S. RootMetrics only had data on the top four markets for Sprint because the operator's LTE networks are so new, first launching in July. (See Sprint Launches 15 Markets in 4G LTE Clusters.)
Table 1: Top 5 4G LTE Cities in the U.S. By Carrier
|Average downloads in top markets||18Mbit/s-22.5Mbit/s||9Mbit/s-11.5Mbit/s||16Mbit/s-18Mbit/s|
|Top city||Indianapolis||Kansas City||Kansas City|
|2nd city||Kansas City||San Antonio||Indianapolis|
|3rd city||St. Louis||Atlanta||Charlotte|
|4th city||Atlanta||Dallas||St. Louis|
|5th city||San Antonio||N/A||San Diego|
No carrier yet has 100 percent 4G LTE coverage in their top markets yet, Moore notes, although Verizon gets closest and AT&T is hitting on or close to 80 percent coverage in its top cities as well. Sprint is pursuing a strategy of turning on markets as soon as it deems it has sufficient street-level coverage and going back and filling in later, so it tends to lag its larger rivals. (See Sprint's 4G LTE Scramble.)
Moore sees a winning city in this early 4G race. "Kansas City across the three networks is the fastest combined city," he says.
Taken in tandem with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s 1-Gig fiber project, this appears to make Kansas City the single fastest wireless and wired broadband city in the U.S. right now. (See KC Gets Google Fiber for Real in October.)
From the RootMetrics data, we can extrapolate that Indianapolis and St. Louis take the silver and bronze, respectively, for 4G performance. San Antonio and Atlanta battle it out for last two slots.
As Moore notes, all of these are smaller cities, and tests in larger areas like the New York metro area can turn in a wide variety of network speeds because some neighborhoods are more built out or easier to deploy than others. It all points to the massive undertaking that deploying 4G in NYC, L.A. or Chicago can be for the carriers.
So, there you have it, check the speeds and let us know how your town or city stacks up against the top 4G performers in the U.S.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile