Saturday, January 11, 2014

T-Mobile US Claims "Fastest" LTE Network

At least for the moment, it appears that T-Mobile US has the fastest average Long Term Evolution 4G speeds in the United States, at 17.8 Mbps, an Ookla speed test has found.

That wouldn't be the first time T-Mobile has had at least a temporary advantage, or at least gained parity, in access speed. Some would say T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, at least for a time, was as fast as the early Verizon Long Term Evolution network.

But T-Mobile US has rapidly built out its own LTE network and CEO John Legere repeated the claim that T-Mobile US now has the fastest LTE network at the recent Consumer Electronics Show.

At least where it is available, T-Mobile US LTE Networks gain that advantage by using twice as much spectrum as typically is the case.

The Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility networks use channels of 10 MHz, while T-Mobile US uses 20 MHz channels, at least in some local markets, including New York City, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco.

In those markets, T-Mobile's 4G LTE service has been measured as high as 72 Mbps for downloads, and 27 Mbps for uploads.

But there likely are other, more prosaic issues at work. Any network will perform well when it is lightly loaded, and conversely less well once it becomes highly used. At the moment, T-Mobile US has fewer users on its LTE network than Verizon Wireless supports on its LTE network, for example.

Some might argue laws of physics are at work, as well. At least in principle, LTE using higher frequency signals could deliver more data. Australian LTE speeds provide an example, some have argued.

But frequency isn’t necessarily the reason. Australia uses wider channels, which automatically support higher bandwidths.

But sustainable leads in the “speed” category tend to be fleeting, as rival carriers respond. That is likely to happen to T-Mobile US as well. Verizon Wireless, for example, already has deployed a 20-MHz LTE network in New York.

Eventually, rival carriers acquire more spectrum and deploy it. That will happen to T-Mobile US as well. And then the first shall be last. At least momentarily.

Sustainable competitive advantage, where it comes to the speed of a network, is hard to achieve.

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