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« The New iPad | Main | How to Buy an iPad 3 »

4G Battle: Verizon vs AT&T

Last month I explained the differences and evolution of 2G, EDGE, 3G, 3G+, and 4G LTE.  Now that we know the iPad 3 (actually I think it'll called the iPad HD) will have 4G LTE - the question becomes which service carrier should you get if you want 4G LTE on the iPad?

The US's two main carriers, Verizon and AT&T, both have 4G LTE but as of today they have some differences.

Verizon has 4G LTE in 196 cities which it says covers 200 million people.  They claim that within 3 months they will cover two thirds of all Americans.  Currently, their network speed is advertised at 5-12 Mbps download and 2-4 Mbps upload. You can use this tool to see the coverage in your city.

AT&T on the other hand currently covers only 28 cities and 74 million Americans.  (Don't be fooled by the tricky "4G" marketing claiming 200 million americans! Since they are losing the 4G LTE race, they've resorted to misleading customers as we discussed here in the 4th paragraph.) They don't advertise their network speeds but many tests show 7-15 Mbps, including this one from CNN of about 13 Mbps download.  You can use this tool to see if you are one of the lucky 28 cities covered by AT&T 4G LTE.

In summary, AT&T covers 28 cities at speeds of 7-15 Mbps download while Verizon covers 196 cities at speeds of 5-12 Mbps. Whether you chose slightly faster speeds or more coverage is up to you, but remember it varies from city to city and we don't yet know the affect that many new 4G LTE iPad's will have on the network performance. 

When I purchase my iPad 3/iPad HD I'll be getting Verizon.  The main reason is that if I get AT&T, and I'm not in one of those 28 cities, then my speeds immediately drop to the 3-5 Mbps of the 3G network.  And the difference between Verizon's 4G LTE and AT&T's 3G is great, and with AT&T's smaller coverage map, only having 3G is a real risk.  By getting Verizon, I'm certain that I'll have coverage in 168 cities (196 minus 28) that is definitely faster than AT&T, and in the other 28, I guess I'll just have to live with 12 Mbps as compared to 15 Mbps. Tough life.