For those who’ve been using the Internet long enough to remember the interminable wait times associated with dial-up modems, you’ll know that Internet speeds have come a long way since then. And they get faster every month.
The advent of broadband put us all light-years ahead of the days when you couldn’t make or receive phone calls because your phone line was tied up sending and receiving data, which crawled across your screen like a lazy snail. And in the last ten years, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have made enormous progress in increasing speeds.
As Billshark reported recently (Speed Test Your Internet Device Here), faster Internet speeds aren’t just a nice-to-have perk. They are crucial if you’re going to download or upload any type of data, which is pretty much everything you do on the Internet. Unfortunately, not all ISPs are equal when it comes to delivering the speed they’ve promised or that you’re paying for.
In December 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the latest in its reports as part of its Measuring Broadband America (MBA) program to study directly measured consumer broadband performance throughout the United States. A summary of its key findings reported that
“maximum advertised download speeds amongst the most popular service tiers offered by ISPs have increased from 12-30 Mbps in March 2011 (when the program first launched) to 100-300 Mbps in September 2015. These increases are not uniform across access technologies and have been driven primarily by the CableTV industry, with smaller increases in fiber based systems. Average DSL speeds have increased only slightly over these years and satellite speeds, over a shorter time interval, have remained constant.”
Over the past few weeks, Billshark has presented information on the latest speed test results for the top ISPs in the country. This information will allow you to better gauge the performance of your own ISP, and the value you receive for your broadband dollar. To speed test your own ISP, click here.
This time we will focus on Verizon Wireless, specifically as related to speed increases and delivery.
Verizon Wireless (as with other Wireless carriers) has an advantage over DSL, in that its signals are carried by microwaves rather than through physical entities such as copper wires or even the more superior fiber-optic lines. Such 4G networks as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) are becoming the standard for Wireless broadband. (“4G” means the fourth generation of data technology for cellular networks, following “3G,” the third generation.)
Although touted by Verizon Wireless as 4G, according to cnet.com this new generation of speed technology is not, technically, 4G. “While current versions of WiMax and LTE are typically referred to in the industry as ‘4G,’ they do not actually meet the International Telecommunication Union’s strict definition. To be legitimately considered a 4G technology by the ITU, the network technology is required by the agency to be IP-based and use orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM). The other main requirement is that the technology needs to support peak download speeds of 100Mbps. The current flavors of LTE and WiMax are not that fast,” the online tech site reported.
But that technicality may prove irrelevant to the service’s everyday users. Tomsguide.com, a well-known online reviewing service, released test results of nine popular Wireless carriers last month. Its overall finding: “When it comes to LTE download speeds, there’s Verizon and then there’s everybody else. The company posted the fastest average download speeds in our testing across six U.S. cities, as well as the fastest average time for downloading an app. That was enough to help Big Red keep its hold on our award for the best network performance, after claiming the crown in our last round of testing.”
Of the nine carriers tested, said Tom’s Guide, “Verizon performed the best on our tests, because it had the highest average download speed (36 Mbps) and fastest app-download time (1 minute, 2 seconds). It finished third in average upload speed, behind T-Mobile and MetroPCS, which use the same network.
There are, however, coverage issues involved in choosing a Wireless ISP. As with satellite and cellphone service, a Wireless connection can be impacted by such physical barriers as trees, tall buildings, and local geography, and by the construction of your home or office.
According to Tom’s Guide, however, Verizon Wireless was superior even in this category. “We split the locations we tested between indoor and outdoor locations to see how being indoors affected carrier performance,” it said. “Generally speaking, speeds slowed down for most carriers when we tested at indoor locations—dramatically, in some cases. The lone exception was Verizon, whose average download speeds improved during indoor testing in four of our six test cities.”
Although Billshark’s speed test reports up to now have focused on fixed broadband, we wanted to include Verizon Wireless in these tests as an option our readers should definitely consider when selecting an ISP service.