The differences between AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile

MSNBC’s Scott Taves asks, “What are the differences between the mobile Internet technologies and networks of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, the four major carriers in the United States?”

“3G, as in iPhone 3G, is an abbreviation used for the third generation of cellular phones and networks. Starting in late 2006, Verizon Wireless and Sprint made a transition to 3G EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) directly,” Taves explains. “Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS) is the standard that AT&T and T-Mobile are employing for their 3G services, although AT&T is using a faster variant called High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA).”

“Marin Perez,’s associate editor and mobile industry expert, said Sprint’s EV-DO 3G network, in its updated Rev. A form, transmits data at speeds up to 3.1 megabits per second… Verizon Wireless also uses a ‘fast’ 3G, EV-DO Rev. A network,” Taves reports.

“AT&T, exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States, uses UMTS/HSDPA, with peak data speeds of 3.6 megabits per second. By the end of the year, AT&T plans to have 3G coverage in 350 U.S. markets, including the 100 largest U.S. cities,” Taves reports. “‘AT&T has the handset everyone wants, but their 3G network is still smaller than Sprint’s,’ Perez said.”

“Having 3G networks in place, however, does not guarantee that wireless customers will want to use them… ‘If it ain’t easy, it ain’t going to get used,’ said analyst Pete Daily of Stratecast, which specializes in telecommunications market analysis. ‘Apple raised the bar for ease of use and set-up for a smartphone with the iPhone,’ meaning it now ‘becomes the benchmark for smartphones, to have consumer success,’ he said,” Taves reports.

“Sprint has at least a two-year head start with 4G technology. AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have all pledged support for LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, a road map for the 4G phase of the UMTS standard. The first commercial deployment of LTE networks in the U.S. is not expected until 2011,” Taves reports.

Much more in the full article here.


  1. As a country we provided electricity to rural areas when it wasn’t cost effective for a private company. We granted a monopoly to Ma Bell to wire the country for phones. But, for cell coverage, we left it to private companies, assuming, I guess, that competition would do the trick. Instead, we got multiple shitty coverages and service. We should have covered the country with towers and leased space to private companies. Anything would be better than what we got. Third world indeed.

  2. @ Orange Juice:

    That’s not videoconferencing, that’s video downloading, which you can do now with phones in the US.

    Video conferencing won’t come for awhile, not only due to bandwidth and speed issues, but battery issues. People bitch now about an iPhone 3G battery not lasting an entire day. Well, it won’t last more than a couple of hours if you’re video conferencing.

    Plus, we have enough problems with people texting while they drive (or ride their motorcycles!), how bad do you think our drivers would be if they were video conferencing while on the interstate?

  3. As much as I would like to switch to AT&T;, it is simply not reliable (always available) where I live. Verizon rules here. But I hate Verizon’s services and hobbling policies. Still, I am stuck with them. Half the war is showing up, which AT&T;hasn’t done yet.

  4. Yeah, we are definitely way behind. People in South Korea were watching live TV on their phones in the subway back in 2002 when I was living there. Last summer, I saw that they are all video chatting on their phones. YES, video chatting NOT just downloading. They call the service “Show.”

  5. @ cnak

    SUCKER!!! No Thanks.

    As for the rest, my personal experience is as an iPhone 1G owner from day one that switched from Sprint. I live in a very rural area very north of Houston, TX. I had Sprint for several years and every year the performance of their network got worse. I was hesitant to switch to AT&T;because I had had terrible luck with them in New Orleans (where I switched to Sprint) from 2000-2002. I took the leap because Sprint’s coverage kept getting worse and they screwed up my bill for six months straight. I wasted hours of time on the phone trying to straighten it out only for them to do it over and over again.

    I also have Verizon for my home phone service and it is terrible. I get cross-talk to the point where I can often hear my neighbors’ conversations and I can even hear them talking to each other about hearing my conversations on the phone. This problem began two years ago after Verizon put in a new hut down the road to service a new neighborhood which they were very eager to “serve”. I have called Verizons’ tech support several times regarding this and every time they begin trying to charge me a small fortune to have a tech come out and check the lines inside my house. I have to threaten them to get them to come out and look at it without charging me, and every time they send out someone that does something to make the crosstalk very quiet for about a month and then it comes back gradually until I can understand what other people are saying again. Until the end of last year, I couldn’t even pay my bill online without giving them my bank account and personal information, which I refused, and still refuse, to do. If I wanted to call them and make a payment over the phone, I had to have memorized my twenty digit account number or have a phone bill with me.

    My iPhone works at my (rural) house. I work all over southeast Texas, and I rarely lose signal. The call quality blows Sprint out of the water and I never have to call AT&T;to figure out what the hell is going on. So far I am extremely pleased with Apple’s choice of provider. I have been very tempted to buy an iPhone 3G, but I just can’t find a reason to fix something that isn’t broke. Besides, if the 3G is the 2nd generation, what is Apple going to do with the 3rd? I think I’ll wait and see.

    One more thing. My Parents live nearby and they have Verizon wireless. My Mom, senior consultant for SAP, loves my iPhone, but doesn’t want to switch carriers for a variety of reasons. She bought the EnV/Voyager recently and it sucked so bad that she took it back and exchanged it for the Dare iPhone clone. Even she agrees that it’s not even close to the iPhone. I played with it for a few minutes and it a very sad imitation. Oh yeah, and she has already had to replace it once because the first one crashed hard the first week that she had it. That was three weeks ago!

    Sorry for being so long winded on this one.

    HAHAHA! I just looked at my MDN word: larger

  6. @SAB

    How can you compare the Verizon landline service to AT&T;’s wireless service. That’s comparing apples to oranges. They have absolutely no relation to each other.

    The cross talk you are getting is not from the landline. It’s from your phone. You need one that is 5.8 or 6 GHZ that goes above the local frequencies. If you have one thats 900MHZ or even 2.4 GHZ this will happen as that’s the frequency of many phones and WIFI routers. The reason you are hearing your neighbors and not the guy across town is because your phone frequency is running at the same frequency as theirs. Look it up. You are getting cross interference. Your phone company has nothing to do with that. It’s not a Verizon issue. It’s a YOU issue. You don’t have to believe me. But google will back up what I’m saying. As will the companies that make the phones. Like I said, do your research and get a newer phone at a higher frequency. I have a 5.8 GHZ phone in an apartment complex with other apt. complexes nearby and have no issue with this. Never have. I did when I was at 2.4 GHZ and 900 mhz though.

    As for mentioning issues with the Dare or Envy2, the same can be said for the IPhone. Just because you got one that works, doesn’t mean your neighbors haven’t had to replace theirs 3 times by now either. Google again can answer that one.;=//global//plans//coverage+maps

    Compare the 3G networks. This is on the VZW website but is using data from AT&T;, Sprint, and VZW. Compare for yourself. If it shows just the wireless map, click on the ‘Compare 3G Networks’ link just below the map. Not even a competition.

    Their GSM coverage is spotty at best. I live in an area where GSM is available. According to them at least. Would you believe NO ONE with a GSM phoen can get coverage here? Go figure. They might want to revise their maps.

    And look at the map of Texas, much of it should be fine. Then again I could probably find plenty of people there with IPhones that think it sucks where they are in Texas. Now come to where I live, even though its supposed to work here, and you’ll have just an expensive mp3 player. Me, I go for call coverage, quality, and connections. Not fancy features. Even though they can be nice to have. I can make a call with 1 bar on VZW with no problems or dropped calls. How many can claim that with AT&T;. Many where I live have had to buy prepaid phones to get a signal so they can have a phone that gets a signal. Kinda defeats the purpose doesn’t it?

    Some people try proclaiming the IPhone as the second coming. According to all the problems its been having lately, I wouldn’t be thumping my chest too loudly.

    It comes down to personal preference to what works best for you. NOT what has the fancier features.

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