How Fast Is T-Mobile's "4G" Data Network?

T-Mobile rushed out of the gates with news this week about its high-speed 4G mobile data network. Not so fast, said competitors and telecom experts, who were quick to point out that the network is more like “3.5G” and isn’t nearly as fast as other 4G networks.

According to T-Mobile, the company now boasts “America’s largest 4G network,” and it’s fast:

With typical download speeds that are on par with or faster than competing 4G technologies, and service availability in 75 metropolitan markets throughout the United States, the T-Mobile network now offers a super-fast, next generation mobile broadband experience to more people than any other wireless network in the country.

Mike Gikas, phone expert at Consumer Reports, puts the brakes on that claim:

True 4G networks promise download speeds approaching and exceeding 5 megabits per second (mbps) under optimal conditions. Indeed, last June, while testing the HTC Evo 4G on Sprint’s 4G WiMax network, I measured download speeds up to 3.5 mbps. However, during my informal tests of the [T-Mobile] G2 at the local HSPA+ zone, the maximum speed I was able to measure was about 1 mbps. That’s fast, but it isn’t quite 4G speed.

Consumer Reports says it’s going to be looking closely at the high-speed networks of all cell carriers. That’s something that can’t happen fast enough.

T-Mobile 4G Service Now Available in More Markets and on New Devices [Press Release]
T-Mobile adds six U.S. cities to ‘America’s largest 4G network’ [Consumer Reports]

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  1. obits3 says:

    Didn’t WIMAX have burst of 10mbps?

    • Yankees368 says:

      yes, yes it does.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      At the Charlotte airport, I get 8-10 Mbps sustained using my HTC Evo as a wireless hotspot. I’ve been to a few other “4G” areas and Charlotte was the only place I got such good results. Places with high population density (Dallas / Fort Worth) have much worse performance (maybe 2-3Mbps sustained).

  2. milkcake says:

    My Evo downloads faster than my home Time Warner Cable internet during evening-night hours.

    • obits3 says:

      Same here!

      • howie_in_az says:

        Not the same here. Sprint’s 3G network seems to be faster than TMobile’s, but it’s nowhere near as fast as my cablemodem at home. I previously had a G1 and am judging the speeds by how long it took to download apps from the Market.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      My Evo has faster uploads on 3G than I get on TWC at all times of the day.

  3. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I’d much rather get speeds in mbits/sec than [Incremential Number]G.

  4. adrew says:

    I bought a T-Mo/HTC G2 a few weeks ago and the speeds are as fast as advertised. It’s about as fast as my cable modem.

    http://www.speedtest.net/result/990983152.png

  5. TheRealDeal says:

    From everything I have read, it looks like *none* of the “4G” networks out there now (Sprint or T-Mobile) satisfy the definition of a 4G network.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4G#4G_wireless_standards

    I have heard multiple reports of the Mytouch 4G hitting speeds of over 4 Mb/s, though.

  6. bsh0544 says:

    That test isn’t under optimal conditions, Mike Gikas. That’s somebody browsing in some indeterminate location.

  7. firepup says:

    Under AT&T with iPhone 4 I get the following results.

    Server: New York, NY Download: 4.43 Mbps Upload: 1.06 Mbps Ping: 248 ms

    http://www.speedtest.net/iphone/69854537.png

    That’s actually pretty good I seen sometimes hit close to 6mbps but i average about 3~4 mbps and upload its pretty much always 1 mbps

  8. Yankees368 says:

    Someone browsing in one location one time does not dictate what an entire network will do. On my evo in 4G, I would burst up to nearly 10Mbps. Try the G2 in another area and maybe you will get better results

  9. Rick says:

    But according to ITU specs for 4G:
    “for a service to qualify as 4G, it must deliver peak download speeds of approximately 100Mbps in high-mobility environments (cell phones) and peak download speeds of approximately 1Gbps in low-mobility environments.”

    so none of the other carriers can claim 4G either. Carriers are using 4G as a marketing term, meaning faster than 3G. But I will give TMO credit that their 4G network is backward compatible, meaning non-HSPA+ handsets will also benefit and receive a speed increase. TMO does not charge anything extra to use its 4G

    • EverCynicalTHX says:

      Kinda sounds like a lot of marketing BS to me and I’m sure Verizon will charge even more for their 4G service than the beefed up TMO 3G and I doubt it will be that much faster realistically once the new phones are being used.

      • jvanbrecht says:

        LTE is significantly faster then HSPA+ (of which tmobile has only implemented half of the protocol, HSDPA (downlink), and not HSUPA (uplink). The uplink speeds are still standard HSPA, not HSPA+

        Either way, its all marketing crap, real world speeds for cellular and smartphones will never be able to utilize the full capabilities due to limitations in the phone itself, even with newer android phones and the latest revision of the iphone, your never going to see the max capabilities.

        cellular modems for laptops and what not are another story, and should be able to see the max speeds, assuming the network can handle it..

  10. DD_838 says:

    I just bought a MyTouch 4G today. The speeds are the same as my G1, horrible. My average download speed is 125 kb/s. (Boston, MA)

  11. ogremustcrush says:

    1mbps on HSPA+? My Evo is faster than that on 3g, I’ve seen as high as 2-3mb. I’ve never actually tested it on WIMAX though.

  12. KrispyKrink says:

    On T-Mobile’s “4G” I get 5Mbps download on my Nexus One thanks to the increased back-end. On my G2 I get 9.8Mbps downloads, that’s during peak hours with everyone using the network.

    It should also be noted that Sprint’s “4G’ isn’t 4G either. No north american network is upgrading to true 4G for a few more years down the road.

  13. d0x360 says:

    Lets cut the BS here. No cell provider in the USA offers actual 4g. Its all marketing crap designed to make more money. Wimax isnt 4g either.

  14. lehrdude says:

    Boca Raton, FL on a G2:

    Down – 3.51
    Up – 1.62

    (per speedtest.com)

    • lehrdude says:

      …that’s speediest.net BTW…and when I just tested from the server in Ft Lauderdale, that advertises official HSPA+, I just measured 5.79 Mbps on the download.

      i have a feeling that some people are just running the test from whatever server is closest according to the speed test, and not bothering to check if that server even claims to use HSPA…

      (Disclaimer: IANANE)

  15. nallanos says:

    4g isn’t out yet and won’t be for awhile. wimax, lte, and hpsa+ are NOT 4g networks. and t-mobile is literally calling their network “4g” when att has the same hpsa+ network and it is 3g….go figure, telecom companies are lying..

  16. seth_lerman says:
  17. BeyondtheTech says:

    Maybe I’ll change my tune later, but I’d be very happy with AT&T’s 3G speeds on my iPhone, if they were consistent throughout my browsing experience. At peak times, like on my commute home from work, and usually when I need or want it most, it just dies completely.

    The iPhone 4 is like a Ferrari and AT&T is like a girlfriend’s son who likes to yank on the parking brake at every other mile when cruising down the interstate.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      My girlfriend accidentally did that in my Corvette when the strap to her purse went around the hand brake. Hilarity did not ensue.

      Good thing I was driving in a straight line at the time instead of around a curve, otherwise I’d be telling Saint Peter the same story.

  18. buzz86us says:

    I’d get one of these services if the term “unlimited” was true. Seriously this is 2010 and we are still having to worry about our usage when we have “unlimited”.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      If you pay the “4G tax” to Sprint, you really do get unlimited “unlimited” and not just “unlimited”. I tested this out on vacation and racked up like 10 GB of 3G in one month without issue. They don’t track 4G usage (or at least don’t divulge it to the customers) but I was streaming Netflix movies in HD on the 4G network using the phone as a wireless hotspot.

      • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

        4G tax? how much more than the $70 “unlimited” they advertise is the 4G “unlimited”?

        • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

          Any “4G” branded phone (Samsung Epic or HTC Evo) comes with a $10/month surcharge and truly unlimited data. I’m on a shared plan with a few others so I only pay around $60/month. It’s not a problem because most of our calls are to mobile phones, which are free on Sprint. Combined, we use about 500 of our plan’s 1500 minutes each month. Everything else is unlimited.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      Then I would give up on any of the services, because unlimited will be going the way of the dodo in the next few years. It’s not just money grubbing, it’s physics: there’s not enough frequency to do unlimited as data use goes up.

  19. Npakaderm says:

    3983 down, 591 up on HSPA+ on a T-mobile G2 in Minneapolis… seems fast enough to me!

  20. TheoSqua says:

    I can get 2-3mbps with HSPA on a Nexus One. HSPA+ would be even faster.

  21. AllanG54 says:

    I have a Sprint 3G phone and it doesn’t matter how fast the network is supposed to be because I can’t ever get 3G. I’m always on the EVDO network and I get just about no service in my house. Yes, I would have liked to change carriers but it’s my wife’s plan and she’s been with Sprint for 10 years.

  22. farker says:

    Seeing as I get 1 to 3 mbps downloads on AT&T’s 3G network (with a clear, strong signal, of course), I’m not impressed with these numbers from T-Mobile.

  23. neilb says:

    NO ONE CARES how fast the best towers are unless customers have access to those towers and they are not overloaded! How many Gs is reliability worth?

    Cincinnati networks are already super-overloaded. I don’t care what the peak is because rarely see what 3G can do due to high network load. I look forward to 4G going live on my EVO not because 3g has too slow of a peak speed for me, but because 4G will not be as overloaded (initially, at least). To this point, I am amazed at the speed I get via 3G when I am not in Cincinnati (ex:1.5kbps in Toledo vs .5kbps in downtown Cinci).

    I want service that is:
    1) available where I am
    2) does not disconnect (AT&T failed this miserably) and
    3) maintains a REASONABLE minimum speed.

    Once a network achieves this, then we can begin to worry about peak speeds.

    • gman863 says:

      I look forward to 4G going live on my EVO not because 3g has too slow of a peak speed for me, but because 4G will not be as overloaded (initially, at least).

      Based on what’s happening in many 4G cities, it won’t be as overloaded – it will be worse.

      Sprint is part owner of Clearwire, the company setting up and running Sprint compatible 4G networks.

      In each market they enter, Clearwire (under the name Clear) sells the 4G as an ISP against cable and DSL. When they went live in Houston, their ad budget dwarfed ISP ads for AT&T and Comcast combined.

      Congratulations! In addition to fighting for available bandwidth with other EVO users, you’ll also have home router traffic including Netflix, Hulu and P2P file sharing.

      How bad is it? I almost signed up until I read the customer forum posts at:

      http://forums.clear.com/clearcom

      I decided to stick with Comcast. They still suck; however it appears they suck less than Clear.

      • neilb says:

        Whoa. That is great information. I had no idea that Clear was struggling with providing service in their mature markets.
        That info is timely too, because the Evo just connected to 4g today for the first time. I would like to keep the 3.5 down 1 up, but I will have low hopes.

  24. Fjord says:

    Friend of mine works at a T-Mobile store, not sure if it’s a gimmick but he ran a speed test and it came to 8Mbps….he also demoed the video calling with me. Nothing special, Skype has had this on my computer for 10 years.
    He also had a pre-release Windows 7 phone in the back…now that is what caught my interest. Really slick and smooth, very Zune-like.

  25. Dyscord says:

    And technically, Verizon and AT&T don’t meet the 4G requirements either.

  26. exsprintminion says:

    A new trend in advertising perhaps? Instead of just making your network faster, just outright lie and tell everyone you’re better and save the money on upgrading service. TMobile has been going down the tubes and I don’t see anyone lining up to buy them out.

  27. paul says:

    My year-old Nokia N900 on T-Mobile in Missouri consistently downloads at around 6Mbps since they updated their network a few months back.

    The old speeds (pre-upgrade) were about 1Mbps, so I wonder if the reporter was just connected to an outdated tower. (I did not read the article)

  28. TrinityLast says:

    I just got a G2 and headed out on an unexpected road-trip. As such, I’ve been using (and am at this moment) the G2 to tether my laptop. It seems just as fast as advertised…there’s no lag, I can even play WoW over the connection. It’s just as fast as my home connection is most days.

  29. flychinook says:

    I’d be happy with ANY G.

    Thank you again, Tmobile, for largely ignoring S.W. Wisconsin. I can’t wait for my contract to end.