I signed up for Verizon’s new high-speed LTE data service on Sunday, the day it went on sale. It’s already had a profound effect on how I work–more so than any product since the first iPhone.Some quick conclusions:
- This is the future of computing. In five years, every mobile device–netbook, notebook, tablet, and phone–will have a built-in high-speed cellular data connection, just like they all have Wi-Fi today..
- Given how important Internet connectivity is for Chrome OS, Google made the right choice by picking Verizon to provide bundled data plans.
- If Apple ever releases a 4G iPhone on Verizon, every AT&T user who’s out of contract will–and should–upgrade as soon as they can afford it.
The safest and most economical way to test Verizon’s LTE service out is to pay the full retail price of $250 for LG’s wireless modem (PC only, Mac version coming soon) and sign up for Verizon’s 5GB data plan on a month-to-month basis at $50 per month. The pricing actually seems to encourage this–even with a two-year contract, the modem still costs $100. A $150 savings doesn’t seem worth the risk of being locked into a service that may not work as expected.
In the city of San Francisco, results have been outstanding. In the urban core down to Potrero Hill it delivers four bars with speeds up to 10Mbps, with no drops even while moving.
Photo: Matt Rosoff
Sticklers will point out that those speeds are nowhere close to the international definition of true 4G, which is supposed to offer peak download speeds of 100Mbps for mobile phones and up to 1Gbps (!) for low-mobility devices like wireless modems.
So what? 10Mbps is enough for streaming YouTube video and songs from Grooveshark with no stutters or interruptions. Not to mention uploading posts and images to SAI, exchanging email and IMs, surfing the Web, and keeping on top of Twitter and other real-time feeds. Even downloading Adobe’s AIR installer (12MB) and the Twhirl Twitter client (1.9MB) felt little different than being on a home Wi-Fi network.
In outlying areas of the city, the service offers two or three bars and speeds between 5Mbps and 8Mbps–slightly slower, but still good enough for most common uses. It even delivered 5Mbps in the Haight-Ashbury district, a notorious dead zone for AT&T 3G. By way of comparison, the iPhone 4 offered no data connectivity at all from the same location. Dead like a brick.
Verizon LTE hasn’t been perfect everywhere in San Francisco–speeds in the outlying Ingleside district were too slow for comfortable Web surfing but OK for email, and it doesn’t work in train tunnels, although the modem picks up Verizon’s slower 3G (EV-DO) network in some MUNI stations.
One glitch: once the modem switches to 3G, users have to manually unplug it and plug it back in to get it to switch back to 4G.
sceptics are also right to point out that the 5GB limit could be reached pretty quickly. After a total of about 5 hours of pretty casual usage over three days, my total stands at 140MB. If I were trying to download torrents or big pieces of software like iTunes, the total could be a lot higher.
I’ve created a public map in Google Maps with details of my tests. Green dots are excellent, blue good, yellow not so great. I’ll update it periodically as I test LTE in more parts of the Bay Area.
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