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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 5, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Seattle’s best wireless: AT&T, Verizon fastest

A new report on Seattle’s wireless carriers finds that the biggest players have the best performance.

It doesn’t mention that their service generally costs more, so you get what you pay for, apparently.

In the report on Seattle-area wireless coverage issued today by Bellevue-based Root Metrics, AT&T and Verizon tied for the best overall performance. Both benefit from their big investments in 4G LTE networks, which have broader reach than the fledgling LTE networks of T-Mobile US and Sprint.

In Root’s testing, the two giants had the fastest upload and download speeds, with AT&T showing slightly better upload speeds than Verizon.

Their download speeds were five times faster than the third largest carrier, Sprint, which still has minimal 4G coverage in the Seattle area. Root found average download speeds of 2.7 megabits per second on Sprint in the Seattle area, compared with 16.4 Mbps on AT&T and 14.6 Mbps on Verizon.

T-Mobile fared slightly better, with average download speeds of 9.5 Mbps.

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To compete against the two dominant carriers, both Sprint and T-Mobile offer “unlimited” data plans with more aggressive pricing.

As for calling performance, Root found all four carriers to be about the same, with no clear winner in the category.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile  received scores of 97 with “stellar, and statistically comparable, call failure rates” of 0.8 percent or below.  That means about 1 in 150 calls would fail, Root said.

Sprint received a score of 94, with 1.7 pecent of calls failed.

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Root also found texting performance to be comparable on all four carriers. They all delivered texts in less than 10 seconds at least 93 percent of the time.

During testing, AT&T and Sprint sent 100 percent of texts while T-Mobile and Verizon had an average of 0.2 percent of texts fail to send.

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