Last Wednesday, shortly after the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE conference call, I was presented with an LG 4G modem and a Windows laptop (more on that later). It was like Christmas came a little early for me. Since Wednesday, I’ve been using the modem as much as I can. I’ve also been preforming tons speed tests (via speedtest.net). In the past, I’ve also had first hand experience with Sprint’s 4G service, on the EVO 4G and Epic 4G. So this post will be a little bit of a showdown between the two services.
For starters, the reason I was given a USB modem, and not a super sweet smartphone, is because that’s all that is available right now. Other devices (read: smartphones, MiFi, tablet) will be available “by mid 2011″. There are two USB modems and they are the same price; $99.99 on contract, $249.99 with no contract. If you purchase it without a contract, you can purchase service on a month-to-month basis. There are two plans: 5GB for $50 or 10GB for $80. They’ve kept overage charges simple. If you go over, you’ll be charged $10 per GB. The reason I was handed a Windows laptop is because the Verizon Connection Manager is not currently available for Mac OSX (sad face). If/when it becomes available, I’ll be begging my VZW rep for the device, to test on my Mac.
Let’s get to the goods…
Verizon is advertising speeds, “on a real-world loaded network”, of 5-12 mbps down and 2-5 mbps up. I have to be honest, I’ve been smack dab in the middle. On average, I’ve been been consistently getting 7 mbps down. Unfortunately, I usually only see 1 mbps up. On a VERY positive note, I’ve never had any issue connecting to the 4G service. I’ll open the laptop, launch the connection manager, and I’m on. Whereas Sprint’s 4G network is very inconsistant. Granted, I was using it on a phone versus the Verizon USB modem. This is partly due to differences in technology between LTE and WiMax. The frequency that LTE is on offers better coverage in buildings. In fact, Sprint goes as far as showing you “in-building” and “on-street” coverage, on their maps. The map on the right shows Sprint 4G coverage at my office. Light blue is “on-street” and dark blue is “in-building”, which means “You will be able to use 4G data inside most buildings, in a car, and outside”. I’m not going to show the local Verizon map, as it’s solid red.
Let’s talk about overall coverage…at least in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Verizon has stepped up in a BIG way. Not only does their service have better building penetration, simply put, it’s everywhere. Sprint did a pretty good job for an initial launch, but Verizon blew them out of the water. Not only is Verizon 4G available downtown, in the urban metro, and the suburbs, Verizon 4G is available in many rural areas. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that some of these areas don’t currently have any kind of high-speed internet available. This is a huge WIN for the rural folks.
The map below compares Verizon 4G and Sprint 4G overall coverage. The dark red represents Verizon’s coverage and the blue represents Sprint’s coverage. The difference is easy to see.
Verizon Wireless 4G versus Sprint 4G coverage map*
*Original map images from Verizon Wireless and Sprint were modified for alignment purposes. Coverage was not altered.
At the end of the day, Verizon’s 4G LTE service is fast, reliable, and affordable. The coverage is great and EVERY Verizon tower will have 4G by 2013. By the time smartphones are released, the coverage should be ever better. I love the service, but I’m not a fan of the USB modems. I can’t wait for 4G hotspot options.