My Experiences with LTE Service

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Colin here. I travel a lot in my job. And the device that I use most is my iPad. I’m constantly on it…and it travels with me for lunch, dinner, and home. I probably average 5~6 hours a day on it. (I know this because the battery is usually 50% discharged and it discharges at a rate of 10% per hour of use.)
I thought it would be interesting to share my experience with using Verizon LTE service.

In short: LTE is excellent.

I do see a lot of variability in the LTE speeds. When I am in a city-core getting speeds of 25 to 45 megabits is common. Yes, my iPad gets speeds faster than my home cable when I am downtown. That is just amazing. But if I am in the suburbs the speed may drop to as low as 1~3 megabits. That’s the honest truth.
I have never seen my iPad LTE as slow as 3G signals however. Yes, my experience is that LTE is always faster than 3G, even in the suburbs. So there is simply little downside to LTE and there is a lot of upside.

There is one problem that I consistently experience at one location that I frequent: The iPad can’t figure out if it wants an LTE or a 3G connection. The iPad continually oscillates between LTE with 1 bar and 3G with 5 bars and (horrifyingly) 1xRTT with three bars. Because it is continually cycling, I never actually get a usable connection. I need to turn off LTE so the iPad will just use a stable 3G connection.

My impression is that there are a very few LTE cell sites in each city, and that they have much broader coverage than a typical 3G cell. That is, the 3G cells and LTE cells seem to be very different beasts, and they aren’t close to one another. So if you are in the central core of a big city you get mondo-fast LTE and it gradually fades off as you leave the city-core. This is different from 3G which seems pretty constant as you travel about.

To get a good comparison I asked a co-worker if I could borrow his iPad with LTE to compare, because he is on AT&T. He laughed. And cried.

AT&T has no LTE coverage in Seattle, or in Washington State, or even any in the entire Pacific Northwest. Whether you are in Salt Lake City or Detroit or Sacramento or Denver there is zero LTE available from AT&T. I couldn’t believe it myself, so I checked directly with AT&T. (http://www.wireless.att.com/businesscenter/plans/network-coverage/lte.jsp)

Say it isn’t so! AT&T, who I use as my poster child of a poorly run company that is indifferent to its customers and long on propaganda has lived up to its reputation in the LTE camp. It’s just hard to believe that you can’t get LTE in Seattle or Louisville or New Orleans. At all. Not available.

So there you have it: The Verizon LTE is pretty amazing, especially in city cores. I’ll report back on the AT&T LTE network when they serve one of the cities I visit. Eventually that might happen. If Hell freezes over first I will report on that, too.

Colin Berkshire