AT&T's LTE network wins kudos but operator ranks lowest

AT&T's (NYSE:T) LTE network was ranked favorably by consumers despite the fact that the operator retained its overall last-place ranking among the four national operators in Consumer Reports' annual customer survey.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) repeated its win from last year, coming in once again as the highest-rated major carrier in the annual survey. Verizon garnered high scores for voice and data service quality and also for support attributes such as staff knowledge and resolution of issues. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA followed in the rankings, with AT&T pulling up the rear. The three laggards received middling to low marks, particularly for voice and text service quality, said Consumer Reports.

Nonetheless, survey respondents rated AT&T's LTE network quite favorably. "Its users reported the fewest problems with that higher-speed service," said Consumer Reports.

PCWorld noted that the LTE speed tests it conducted earlier this year showed that AT&T had the fastest 4G download speeds of any carrier at 9.12 Mbps.

In September, wireless testing company RootMetrics issued a report that said Verizon's data network (combined LTE and CDMA EV-DO) on average supported downlink speeds of 13 Mbps and uplink speeds of 7 Mbps. AT&T Mobility's network (HSPA+21 and LTE) produced average downlink speeds of 7 Mbps, while T-Mobile USA's HSPA+ 42 network helped it keep pace with AT&T, producing average downlink speeds of a little more than 5 Mbps.

Sprint's CDMA network produced average downlink speeds of around 2 Mbps. RootMetrics did not test Sprint's nascent LTE network.

AT&T is still in second place when it comes to LTE coverage. In mid-November, AT&T said its LTE network covers more than 150 million people in 103 U.S. markets, more than double the POPs AT&T covered with LTE at year-end 2011. The company intends to broaden LTE coverage to 250 million people by year-end 2013 and 300 million by year-end 2014.

Verizon launched LTE on Dec. 6, 2010, making it the world's first Tier 1 wireless provider to build and operate an LTE network. As of Nov. 15, Verizon had deployed LTE in 441 U.S. markets covering some 250 million POPs. Its end-of-year LTE coverage target is 260 million POPs.

Sprint launched LTE in July and has disclosed more than 125 cities where it is building out LTE. T-Mobile USA is refarming its spectrum in preparation to launch LTE in 2013.

For more:
- see this Consumer Reports release
- see this PCWorld article

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