The Definitive Coast-to-Coast 3G Data Test


Moderator<br>All Things Apple
Jul 19, 2001

3G is more important now than ever before. Obviously, AT&T made a big push over the summer to augment 3G for the arrival of the updated iPhone, but almost every smartphone and most standard phones in the three largest cell networks runs on a supposedly fast 3G network, and T-Mobile's 3G network is in the works. The technology can, at least on paper, rival home broadband. AT&T's HSPA network, for instance, is supposed to deliver data at up to 3.6Mbps downstream, while letting you upload at 1.4Mbps. Meanwhile, the EVDO Rev. A that Sprint and Verizon use promises a comparable "burst rate" of 3Mbps up, with 1.5Mbps down.

Like a lot of business travelers, we bloggy types have a particular interest in 3G USB dongles, since we're often trying to file stories far away from any decent wi-fi. Figuring out who has the best service quickly becomes a fixation, which becomes an obsession, which, as usual, becomes an ultimate Battlemodo.

In lieu of jetsetting all around the country, we FedExed our testing package from one staffer's home to the next, until we'd hit eight of the country's biggest cities. In each city, testers were instructed to put the three cards?one each from AT&T Sprint and Verizon?through some pretty rigorous paces. (Note: In case you're wondering why T-Mobile isn't represented, the carrier doesn't yet have the coverage required, nor does it yet offer 3G USB dongles or cards like the ones we used in testing. Next year, maybe.)

The testers chose three to five locations (preferably including one suburban spot). Parking themselves somewhere, they would connect each card to the laptop, running Speakeasy's bandwidth test five times for each device, and then follow it up with an auxiliary battery of repeated pageload and file download tests, in order to verify Speakeasy's readings. [continued in link]

Good to see some real life speedtests of each respective 3G network...


Elite Member | Peripherals
Super Moderator
Mar 4, 2000
I do a lot of travelling, and for the past year I have gotten good service using a Sprint connection card - the Novotel Merlin S-720. But, there are some areas I frequent where Spring coverage is minimal or flaky.

So, this past week, I got the AT&T Quicksilver USB device and installed it on my laptop along with the Sprint software.

Anyway, I ran sequential tests using the same laptop targeted on the same bandwidth speed/test site, and these were some of the results:

AT&T Test 1: 633 Kbps Down; 301 Kbps up
Sprint Test 1: 811 Kbps Down; 573 Kbps up

AT&T Test 2: 689 Kbps Down; 118 Kbps up
Sprint Test 2: 1330 Kbps Down: 516 Kbps up

The Sprint device was PCMCIA, and the AT&T was USB.

I was pleased to note that both devices and their connection manager software could be installed in the same computer without any interference.

Of course, both were "3G," but Sprint was CDMA technology while AT&T was GSM. When I travel abroad, the AT&T device can be activated for international use.

I bought these devices outright, so I was able to get them activated without any payback contract. I was also pleased to find out that AT&T gives a 15% discount to retired military. That was nice!

This should start some responses to your question.


Jul 1, 2001
What I'd love to see is what would happen if you took those mobile broadband cards on a REAL "Coast-to Coast" cross-country road trip! I bet that they wouldn't even work 80% of the time, and that you could only get a usable connection once you got within 50 miles of a major city.


Elite Member | Peripherals
Super Moderator
Mar 4, 2000
Actually, I have done quite a bit of that, but not with both cards. I have "roaded" the S720 Sprint card from Tucson to Cleveland, and it worked perfectly all along the route on Interstate highways. I also roaded it from Tucson to Bend, OR, and found it OK all along I-5, but between Klamath Falls and Bend, there were some dead areas as well as a lot of 1XRTT vice EVDO. And a year ago, I took it on a Mississippi River cruise from New Orleans to Vicksburg, MS and back. Got good service most of the way with EVDO Rev. A in N.O., Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Natchez and Vicksburg, and pretty good 1XRTT in between.

As long as you are on or near an Interstate you will get pretty good service.

The worst Sprint connection has been in Pasadena, CA. Sprint coverage is fringe there, but AT&T is solid.