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Jun 26 2012   10:53AM GMT

Verizon Leads in Overall 4G Access, But There Are Plenty of Good Options

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

If you’re in the market for a smartphone with a super-fast connection to the Internet, there are loads of good choices out there. Still, not all the wireless service providers are equal.  Here’s how they stack up.

Verizon WirelessThere’s two main criteria to keep in mind: speed and availability. It doesn’t matter how fast a company’s 4G service is if it’s not available in your area. Price is also a consideration.

Verizon is the over-all winner. Its 4G LTE service isn’t the fastest, but it’s near the top.  And it’s been around long enough to be very widely available, covering major cities and most good-size towns around the U.S. It continues to grow as the carrier keeps adding smaller towns.

AT&T LogoAT&T comes in second.  Tests have shown that its LTE service is a bit faster than Verizon’s, but it’s still so new that most Americans have no access to it yet. Still, AT&T is working to add new cities at a fast pace. Traditionally, though, this carrier has focused its efforts on larger metropolitan areas, ignoring smaller towns.

AT&T and Verizon are approximately equal in price, but cost a bit more than their smaller rivals.

T-MobileDespite being the smaller of the Big 4 U.S. carriers, T-Mobile does surprisingly well. Its 4G HSPA+42 network is relatively widely available and quite speedy — in real-world tests it’s about half the speed of AT&T’s LTE, but much faster than any 3G network. Also, this carrier offers 4G for less than AT&T and Verizon.  Still, this company mainly concentrates on larger cities, with little rural access.

SprintSprint is in the process of switching from 4G WiMAX to 4G LTE, and is therefore struggling a bit.  Its WiMAX network has stopped expanding but LTE service isn’t available yet. What Sprint has going for it is its truly unlimited data plan which can save heavy wireless users a lot of money.

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