Originally posted on Gigaom:
After Verizon’s (s vz) early adoption of LTE gave the carrier a commanding 2011 lead in the battle for data speed supremacy, things are heating up considerably in 2012. AT&T (s t) is aggressively rolling out its own LTE service, Sprint has promised LTE later this year, and T-Mobile isn’t far behind. At the moment, though, AT&T and Verizon command the data speed battlefield.
We’re testing carrier coverage across the country to give consumers a real-world look at mobile data performance. As part of this ongoing process, we extensively measured performances across multiple LTE markets during the first quarter of 2012 and have put together a head-to-head comparison of AT&T and Verizon based on these results. Using off-the-shelf phones, we tested both indoors and outdoors during driving, at day and at night, ultimately generating more than 50,000 data tests.
As our tests show, just because a carrier advertises a market as LTE-enabled doesn’t mean that you will always be on its LTE service. Moreover, the consumer experience of a carrier’s network is impacted by data failure rates. If you’re in the middle of uploading a file or downloading a movie and lose your data connection, those LTE speeds are meaningless. Looking solely at LTE misses the forest for the trees. It doesn’t give you a true picture of a network’s real-world performance.