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Study: Best Bang for Wireless Buck Isn't Always Fastest Service

by KYW tech editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - You've heard and seen the ads. Each cell company claims to be better than the next when it comes to wireless broadband service and speeds. So one firm has turned to a measuring stick that's hard to argue with: those of us who pay the bills to keep a smartphone connected.

OpenSignal crowd-sources this data from more than 100,000 people across the country using their free app on iPhone and Android and on a contract to access the quicker LTE networks.

The fastest? T-Mobile, with an average of 11.5 Mbps, followed by AT&T (9.1 Mbps) and Verizon (7.8 Mbps).

"The big disappointment, almost, is Sprint's network, which averages 4.3 Mbps," says Samuel Johnston, brand strategist with OpenSignal. "That's very slow."

It's even slower in Philadelphia, where it loses nearly half its steam (2.2 Mbps). AT&T (5.6 Mbps) and Verizon (4.3 Mbps), too, get dramatically more sluggish here, while T-Mobile (13.3 Mbps) fares better than the app's crowdsourced national average.

But Johnston says speed isn't the only thing that matters -- and it may not be what matters most:

"It's most important to have LTE coverage where people are actually using their phones," he explains. "According to that metric, we see Verizon winning comfortably as the network that provides their LTE users with the best level of service in terms of availability of access."

OpenSignal data show the average Verizon LTE-capable device is in the fast lane -- rather than dragging along on 3G -- more than 83 percent of the time.

"That's a lot of the time they're able to access these relatively fast speeds," Johnston tells KYW Newsradio. "And then it's quite a big step down to AT&T at 70.6 percent, and then again a reasonably large step down to T-Mobile at 61.1 percent."

Sprint's coverage is rated most improved over the past six months.

We've got nothing on the Aussies, though. They're running, on average, twice as fast as our fastest network.


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