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Old November 3rd, 2012, 10:52 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default How fast is non-LTE in the US?

Hello,
I've recently looked at the Nexus 4, and it seems incredibly good. However, the lack of LTE is concerning, since I'll be using this phone on the go a lot. It even seems like the greatest and most future-proof Android device on the market, except for this stupid little flaw.


I live in the eastern US. How fast should I expect the internet to be without LTE? What speeds are generally acceptable and usable? Is it stupid to buy a phone without LTE if in the future the LTE networks will only get larger and better and more prevalent?

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Old November 3rd, 2012, 11:20 AM   #2 (permalink)
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LTE is great. It's also not required.

I understand that if you go with T-Mobile, you'll get excellent speed, but that varies by location, same as with any carrier.

As for a speed requirement, that's a little up to your use. I regularly get between 1 and 2 Mbps downloads on my 3G and it's sufficient for email and the web. Streaming video, I'd say that you would want higher, say 4 or 5 Mbps or better.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 11:37 AM   #3 (permalink)
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T-Mobile has fantastic HSPA+ speeds (which the Nexus 4 supports). My download speeds have ranged anywhere from 5 Mbps to 20 Mbps. Upload speeds have been consistent around 2 Mbps. I personally don't lust for LTE because of the good speeds I'm getting on T-Mobile's HSPA+ which are perfectly fine for me. T-Mobile will eventually have their own LTE network beginning sometime in 2013 but HSPA+ will still be around. T-Mobile is actually opening up the 1900 MHz spectrum for HSPA+, trying to attract iPhone users. I can't really speak from experience about HSPA+ on AT&T...it is slower than T-Mobile's but still faster than regular 3G. Like EarlyMon mentioned though, it largely depends on the coverage in your area. Check your coverage map beforehand.
 
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 11:59 AM   #4 (permalink)
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@EarlyMon That doesn't sound so bad– the reviewer from the Verge claimed maximum download speeds of 5 mbps with the Nexus 4, which is just what you recommended for videos. But since I might actually get less: How is the experience on the slow connection that you have? You said that you use it for emails and the web. Are there annoying waits or delays at all?

Quote:
I understand that if you go with T-Mobile, you'll get excellent speed...
Do you mean LTE or non-LTE speed?

Thanks. And I would appreciate anybody else telling me what their connection speed is, what they use it for, and whether they like it.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 12:05 PM   #5 (permalink)
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@SoFLO That's also reassuring, since the reviewer from the Verge was testing on the AT&T network, not the T-Mobile network. That T-Mobile is opening up the 1900 MHz spectrum for HSPA+ is also great, since the Nexus 4 supports it.
I'll be checking my coverage map, thanks.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 12:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Ok, I checked both my T-Mobile coverage and my AT&T coverage, and they both are "excellent" or "best" in all the places that I go. However, I'm not sure whether this is what I should check for HSPA+. My city does have HSPA+ coverage on T-Mobile, but that doesn't mean much, I suppose.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 12:20 PM   #7 (permalink)
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So far as I know, only Verizon has LTE right now (true 4G); what T-Mobile and AT&T are calling 4G is their HSPA+ network, which itself is pretty darn good but is squarely outclassed by LTE. Both T-Mobile and AT&T are planning to have actual LTE networks set up in 2013, but it will probably be 2014 before they can boast coverage that can compete with Verizon's LTE network.

However, once T-Mo and AT&T have LTE set up, they both have an HSPA+ network their customers can fall back on. Verizon, on the other hand...

(I do not know how Sprint factors into this. Never had them myself and, based on T-Mobile's up-and-comingness and broader network, I probably never will.)
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 01:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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So far as I know, only Verizon has LTE right now (true 4G); what T-Mobile and AT&T are calling 4G is their HSPA+ network, which itself is pretty darn good but is squarely outclassed by LTE.
You can say that again. My S3 tops out at 6-8Mbps with AT&Ts "LTE" while my iPhone 5 on Verizon has hit 42Mbps and averages 27-30Mbps. Its not even close. HSPA is garbage IMO. Will never own a non LTE phone again.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 01:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm very satisfied with T-Mobile's HSPA+. When T-Mobile does deploy LTE it will run on a newer, faster version of LTE technology. They'll have the best LTE network available. VZW will be heavily invested in already outdated technology. VZW is just trying to be the first and largest network, mostly for advertising purposes. To them, LTE was 'good enough'. T-Mobile (and other carriers around the world) correctly determined LTE wasn't quite ready and waited a bit for it to mature.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 03:49 PM   #10 (permalink)
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LTE is not true 4G. Like all other technologies out today, they're officially allowed to be called 4G by dispensation from the standards body that governs use of the term, the ITU. This is so because they kept going in circles on the spec definition and US carriers decided to just get to work. When Sprint went with WiMax that was expected to be the 4G standard and while they were building, the ITU went back to the drawing board and changed their mind.

Actual 4G as specified (now called true 4G because the blogosphere won on the use of the term, not stated in the original spec) is 100 Mbps downloads using either LTE Advanced or WiMax 2. There are no deployments of it in the United States.

A lot of people rightfully believe that their LTE speeds are much higher than they actually are, because the Speedtest app that most people use is highly inaccurate above a certain point. Don't quote me because I am going from my imperfect memory, but I think that you can forget above 25 Mbps.

After a certain point, you can forget the Mbps spec you have because it stops dominating the network performance.

What you care about and what few discuss is the lag time between packets, indicated by the ping time.

Network data is not a stream of bits. If it were then only Mbps would matter. Network data is a stream of packets. Each packet is less than 2000 bytes long, and there is a transmission delay between each packet.

I have been in locations where I tested better than 4 Mbps on 4G and 1 Mbps on 3G and the 3G was hilariously faster - lower packet delay times dominated.

1x speed for a Blu-ray disk is 36 Mbps. Unless you have a plan to flawlessly stream high quality, high definition BD movies over a mobile connection, I don't think that you'll really need all that much in the way of absolute speed.

What will govern your performance is low delay between packets and how quickly and efficiently the phone gets those from the antenna, through a massive amount of software and hardware, and onto your screen.

It's really not about the Mbps after a certain point, depending on your use.

For web browsing, 2 Mbps with low lag (delay time) is actually pretty ok.

Put it this way - on city streets within the law, a 10,000 horsepower car doesn't really out-perform a nice car. Not every number matters.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 04:22 PM   #11 (permalink)
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@EarlyMon Thanks. When I stop by at a T-Mobile store to play with the phone when it comes out, is there any way to determine the quality of the connection?
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 04:58 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Color me better educated. Good post Early. Gotta say that this 4G thing has been incredibly hard to research. Even the usual go-to sources (Wikipedia, for instance) have been woefully inadequate.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 05:19 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CodeM0nkey View Post
@EarlyMon Thanks. When I stop by at a T-Mobile store to play with the phone when it comes out, is there any way to determine the quality of the connection?
Out here, it depends on the location of the store and where the tower is.
I am getting H on the Nexus S - it's in and out. The closest store is just down the hill from me, and their phones were doing the same. TMO is setting up the towers as fast as they can - and some places it looks like they are giving all some H service and will fix the rest later.

Colorado Springs is one of the WORST places for cell reception anyway. All carriers can have problems depending on where the customer lives or works.

I'm more voice and text - but I have friends on other carriers who have problems with voice and text. I can imagine what data would be like.
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Old November 3rd, 2012, 06:27 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CodeM0nkey View Post
@EarlyMon Thanks. When I stop by at a T-Mobile store to play with the phone when it comes out, is there any way to determine the quality of the connection?
Truthfully, I am very biased.

I get a phone out of the showroom quickly and into my personal environment where I try to torture test the features that matter to me as quickly and intensively as possible.

That way, if something isn't working out for me, I'm able to take advantage of my return period.
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