One of the more interesting conversations the Smartphone Experts team had at CES 2010 was with Root Wireless, who monitors the performance of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the US. Their overall message is that there's no single best carrier, because it varies so much from place to place, but they did try to determine which carrier survived CES the best.
Here's the bottom line:
AT&T started out providing the fastest service, but quickly fell to 4th place.
Verizon better maintained its consistency of service, performing particularly well on the event’s busiest days.
Loading its proprietary Root Mobile™ crowdsourcing application on smartphones purchased off-the-shelf from each of the ‘Big Four’ carriers, Root Wireless conducted stationary tests at a fixed location immediately adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center, constantly running Root Mobile from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., January 5-8. The linear tests determine data transmissions speeds, cell tower hand-off rates and network connection failures, as monitored and reported by Root Mobile. It is noteworthy that the findings differ from others data transmission speed tests conducted using PCs, precisely because Root Mobile is engineered to determine wireless consumers’ real-world experience using smartphones, not PCs. Also worth keeping in mind: Results reported here are local to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Root Wireless network mapping software has confirmed that all network performance is local; it varies from neighborhood-to-neighborhood, from service provider to service provider.
CrackBerry Kevin shot from video at Root Wireless' booth, so if you're curious for more (and the techies among you should be!) go check that out on CrackBerry.com.
My experience after the break!
Now make no mistake, there were a lot of iPhones at CES. Tons of BlackBerrys too spread over all the carriers, and a few DROIDs here and there, but the iPhone and AT&T definitely had one of the most visible presences at this convention. For my part, I brought my Rogers iPhone 3GS with me (and yes, it was very expensive). That meant I roamed between AT&T 3G and T-Mobile EDGE (something several Americans told me they wished they could do!).
Anecdotally, not just at CES but at the airports in between, I would walk down a hall and lose all signal on one network and have to wait for my iPhone to roam back to the other. Same in Vegas, the hotel had zero T-Mobile EDGE, but fine AT&T 3G, while the Convention Center was AT&T fail and solid T-Mobile EDGE. Sympathetically, I don't know how you Americans suffer through any of your GSM/HSPA carriers (and Dieter might add Sprint to the list, given his MiFi failures during the show).
Fake Steve was right, you live in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, and quite often you can't connect a call or pull any data. And worse, even when a cell tower gives you 5 full bars of signal, there's no telling wether the backhaul has any actual bandwidth left behind it. (Imagine having a powerful WiFi router lit up at home, but your cable or DSL modem was dead behind it).
O2 is apparently suffering now as well, so you're not alone, but it's going to take massive investment and brilliant innovation (including solid 4G coverage) to ride the upcoming tsunami-like data demands.