iPhone 5 with LTE: Customer gets near-50Mbps download speed

That's five times what most customers seem to get with LTE

LTE wireless data speeds are impressing iPhone 5 and Android phone customers across the U.S., and some of the speeds are truly mind-blowing.

speedtest result
"This is what I got today on iPhone 5 AT&T LTE in NJ," wrote Graham Hill, an iPhone 5 user in New Jersey.

An AT&T customer who uses an iPhone 5 in New Jersey reported getting a download speed of 49.84Mbps and an upload speed of 21.07Mbps. The user, Graham Hill, sent Computerworld a screenshot by email showing his results on a Speedtest.net test from earlier Wednesday. He said his location was about 12.5 miles from a server in New York City.

One test on one wireless network location isn't all that meaningful -- Hill could have been the only AT&T customer on LTE for miles around. The user's proximity to a cell tower and the number of users, among other factors, make a difference in network speeds.

Still, Hill's results were about five times faster than what most LTE download speeds have been with U.S.-based carriers, including Verizon Wireless, which offers LTE service in nearly 400 cities, and Sprint, which is on track to have LTE in 100 cities by year's end. AT&T has recently added LTE in several cities; it now offers the 4G service in 72 markets and could break 100 by the end of the year. AT&T also boasts that its HSPA+ service offers very high speeds and is available nationwide.

In general, the carriers' LTE networks are offering average speeds that are about 10 times faster than 3G network speeds.

Hill's results are on par with what a forum user accessing the Rogers Canada networks found on an iPhone 5 last weekend: 57Mbps on a download and 25Mbps on an upload.

The biggest concern for LTE customers is finding an actual LTE cell connection. When an iPhone 5 or an Android LTE phone can't find an LTE connection, it reverts to a 3G network. Some new iPhone 5 users have already seen a slight, sub-second interruption in video being streamed to the phone's display when such a network transition occurs.

Users who have experienced LTE performance similar to Hill's could encounter a downside if they stream video at such speeds over a cellular network instead of Wi-Fi. With his fast LTE feeds, Hill could zip through a single 3GB high-definition feature length movie download in eight minutes. That much data costs $30 on an AT&T individual smartphone data plan.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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