AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, everywhere we look ads are popping up advertising superfast "4G" networks. But what is 4G anyway and who really has it?
Originally, the term 4G referred to any mobile technology that could support speeds over 100Mbps. None of the carrier networks come anywhere close to this speed. The standards body that sets these rules, the International Telecommunication Union, recently issued a press release that muddied the definition and gave the carriers leeway to call basically any improvement over 3G technology "4G". So much for standards bodies...
What's really important to us as consumers, though, is not whether a network is 3G or 4G, but simply how fast it is. And in our testing of nearly every "4G" phone on the market, it's no contest. Verizon's LTE network is the hands-down winner.
During our review of the Samsung Charge for Verizon, we got jaw-dropping peak download speeds of over 21Mbps. That's more than 5x faster than anything we've seen on T-Mobile or AT&T's current 4G networks (AT&T will have an LTE network soon, though) and 3x faster than what we've seen on Sprint. In fact, that's probably faster than the Internet connection in your home.
The flip side is that Verizon's LTE network hasn't rolled out in very many places, and Verizon's 3G CDMA network has been far slower than T-Mobile and AT&T's 3G networks in our testing. So where you live should be a major consideration when deciding which carrier to go with.