Sprint’s wireless network fares poorly in test

05/24/2013 4:17 PM

05/24/2013 4:17 PM

Sprint Nextel Corp. fared poorly in cellphone speed tests reported this week by the website TechHive.

The site worked with a testing firm called OpenSignal to measure wireless service in 20 markets — including Kansas City. They tested the new and faster 4G LTE services offered by the four major carriers as well as their standard services.

Sprint finished fourth overall in both cases, according to

TechHive’s report

.

“We are in the middle of a roll out of a new network while maintaining the legacy network,” Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter said Friday regarding the TechHive results.

The roll out is called Network Vision. It is Sprint’s multi-billion dollar project to add LTE across Sprint’s service area market-by-market while upgrading coverage of its standard 3G service.

Schlageter said the work is uneven in that Atlanta and Dallas, for example, have gotten most of their 4G work done but not the 3G upgrades, while other cities are the other way around.

TechHive’s report said Sprint’s LTE service, though not in as many cities as Verizon’s and AT’s LTE, “has reach but not speed.”

Its score in the 14 cities tested where TechHive tested an LTE signal was an average of 4.32 megabits per second for downloading from the Internet. That’s “less than half the speed of the third-place finisher, T-Mobile, and roughly a third of winner AT’s average download speed,” TechHive said.

The comparison was better in Kansas City where Sprint’s download speed averaged 9.97 megabits per second, third fastest here. Only San Diego’s Sprint customers saw faster LTE speeds at 10.06 megabits per second, according to the tests.

Schlageter said Sprint has begun building LTE service in some of the markets TechHive tested but has yet to reach the fairly broad coverage it waits for to publicly “launch” service. During the interim, service will be spotty.

Sprint received slower speed scores in TechHive’s 4G tests in San Francisco, New York, Miami and Washington, D.C., where Schlageter said services hasn’t launched officially. It also received slower speed results in Dallas and Atlanta.

TechHive noted that Sprint says its tests are showing 6 to 8 megabits per second speeds. But that was the whole point of the test — to find out what customers experience rather than what the companies promise.

Overall, TechHive said, AT’s LTE service was fastest on average at 13.15 megabits per second download speeds. It also had the fastest upload average speed (for posting online) and the shortest latency period, which measures delays in pushing data through the wireless connection.

Verizon’s LTE market reaches the most potential users but was second fastest at average download speeds of 9.61 megabits per second. Third fastest was T-Mobile’s average at 9.01 in markets it currently offers LTE or HSPA 42 service, the latter being a different technology than LTE but which T-Mobile markets as providing 4G speeds.

Sprint and Verizon both fared less favorably in TechHive’s report on their standard service, which is commonly called 3G. Each uses the same technology called CDMA while AT and T-Mobile use HSPA technology.

TechHive noted that Sprint’s 3G average download speed “declined considerably” in the recent test compared with a year earlier. Schlageter said that represents the “pardon our dust” effect of Network Vision that Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has talked about previously.

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