T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 and Verizon’s LTE are two great choices for high-speed mobile-Internet access. However, I hear and read a lot of misinformation about what each does and offers. To give you an idea of their respective capabilities, I ran some speed tests in four different areas of Los Angeles using Ookla’s Speedtest.net app. On the T-Mobile HSPA+ 42 side I used a Samsung Galaxy S II (reviewed here). On the Verizon LTE side I used a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Each test was performed five times. Here are the average results for each location.
Los Angeles (Hollywood)
|Samsung Galaxy S II||460.2 ms||0.966 Mbps||5.618 Mbps|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||59.6 ms||5.43 Mbps||11.144 Mbps|
Los Angeles (Silver Lake)
|Samsung Galaxy S II||166.4 ms||1.474 Mbps||8.94 Mbps|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||56 ms||6.68 Mbps||14.788 Mbps|
Los Angeles (Union Station)
|Samsung Galaxy S II||449.4 ms||1.24 Mbps||7.792 Mbps|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||50.8 ms||4.584 Mbps||6.176 Mbps|
Los Angeles (Koreatown)
|Samsung Galaxy S II||459 ms||0.788 Mbps||8.388 Mbps|
|Samsung Galaxy Nexus||50.2 ms||6.244 Mbps||13.164 Mbps|
As with any measure of mobile Internet speeds, your results will vary depending on coverage, time of day, number of local subscribers, etc. Unlike the batch of tests I did pitting HSPA+ 21 against HSPA+ 42, I was only able to run tests in one city. Although Los Angeles is ridiculously large, it’s only one city and the results are not necessarily indicative of the performance you’ll get (unless you’re reading this article in Los Angeles).
A lot of tech enthusiasts make the mistake of only looking at download speeds when comparing different mobile services. As you can see from the test results, T-Mobile HSPA+ 42 is competitive with LTE when it comes to downloads. In terms of upload speeds and latency, LTE blows HSPA+ 42 away. Unless the only thing you do with your phone is download files, upload speed and latency are important for an optimum Internet experience. If you use your phone for tethering or as a WiFi hotspot, the differences are even more pronounced.
HSPA+ is a great technology and has lots of room for growth. I expect T-Mobile to aggressively increase the download speeds it offers with HSPA+ over the next few years. However, the technology simply isn’t as efficient with data as LTE. While T-Mobile will probably double its HSPA+ speeds several times over the next couple of years, upload speeds and latency will always be behind Verizon’s LTE.
Keep in mind that I’m not trying to dog T-Mobile at all. I’m a fan of the company. It offers great prices and service. For a lot of people, HSPA+ 42 speeds are more than enough. For tech heads that want the fastest speeds across the board, LTE from AT&T or Verizon is the way to go.