Speed Is Not the Only Attribute in Judging LTE Networks

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    There was good news for both AT&T and Verizon’s LTE initiatives in a study released this week by RootMetrics.

    The survey – which collected more than 725,000 samples across 77 markets, according to InformationWeek – found that AT&T’s network was fastest. The report said that average downloads were 18.6 Megabits per second (Mbps) and the peak download speed was “a staggering” 57.7 Mbps. Upload speeds were 9 Mbps and 19.6 Mbps average and peak, respectively. Verizon’s average and peak download speeds were 14.3 Mbps and 49.3 Mbps. The story offers results for Sprint and T-Mobile’s one network.

    The good news for Verizon, pointed out at WirelessWeek, is that its subscribers are more likely to gain access to its LTE network than those using AT&T or Sprint.

    At 93.2 percent, RootMetrics had a better than 9 out of 10 chance of accessing Verizon’s LTE service. That compares to an 81.7 percent chance of grabbing an LTE connection with AT&T and a 50.2 percent chance with Sprint. T-Mobile didn’t offer LTE service in 2012 so this stat was not available.

    The networks’ speed and footprint clearly are evolving. So is the bookend issue, which is precisely what subscribers will do with all this newfound speed. SAP conducted a survey at the Mobile World Congress that included a question on the drivers of 4G/LTE services. Diarmuid Mallon, the company’s lead for global mobile marketing programs, posted a piece at ZDNet that looked at the responses. This is the heart of his assessment:

    Operators see these new, IP-based services as big potential revenue-generators in the next few years. Of the industry insiders at the conference who responded, 58 percent said that rich communication services (RCS) and increased data usage, among other new offerings, will drive operator revenue. Sources of revenue differed across regions, as you might imagine. Streaming video topped the list for Europe and North America, while respondents based in Asia cited increased data usage by the region’s huge number of new smartphone users as most significant.

    The transition from 3G to 4G – mostly LTE – can be seen as an increase in speed. Seeing it purely as a statistic is underestimating its importance, however. The reality is that the rough equalization of wired and wireless opens a new frontier for subscribers.

    The next major step is the use of LTE for voice traffic. The transition is gaining momentum and will get fully in gear next year. The signs are positive: CNET reports that Verizon may release a voice over LTE (VOLTE)-only phone in 2014, while Infonetics Research suggests that the worldwide LTE market will more than double in this year and for the first time pass the $10 billion mark. Nascent voice services will play a role in that increase.

    An organization considering which network to use must balance many things. The top-line result of the RootMetrics research – the peak speeds of each network – is important. It is not the whole ballgame, however. Companies should consider the handsets being offered, the average speeds, the size of carriers’ footprints, the natural attributes of the service that traffic will use where LTE is unavailable, the speed of the rollout to VoLTE and others issues. It’s not a simple calculation. 

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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