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Testing data speeds in New York

CNET editors Jeff Bakalar and Bonnie Cha take to the streets of New York to put the four major cell phone carriers to the test. See which provider offered the fastest data speeds. The result might surprise you.

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Recently, AT&T completed upgrades to its 3G network in New York City, more specifically in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, and the carrier was hopeful that its customers would see improved 3G performance voice and data performance during peak hours.

Wanting to put AT&T's claims to test, we asked you to share your experiences with us, and the results were mixed; some of you said service was worse, while others said it was about the same, and still, a few said performance was better.

Unfortunately, without having any data from before the AT&T network upgrade, it's hard for us to do a before and after comparison, but we thought it would be a good opportunity to do a data speed comparison among the four major U.S. carriers. In an ideal world, we would conduct these tests over an extended period, but time constraints and other responsibilities prevent us from doing so right now. Still, we wanted to provide you with a snapshot of what we experienced on a weekday in New York.

We conducted the tests on a Thursday afternoon and into the evening rush hour at four different locations in Manhattan--CNET's offices in Midtown, Columbus Circle, Times Square, and Union Square. To measure download and upload speeds, we downloaded the Ookla's mobile app (set to the same server and set to measure in kilobits per second) to the iPhone 4 for AT&T, Nexus One for T-Mobile, HTC Evo 4G for Sprint, and Motorola Droid X for Verizon. We ran the test three times on each phone at each of the locations and then averaged the results, which are found in the tables below.

Separately, I (Bonnie) went around the same locations over the weekend, as well as other reported trouble spots, including the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, and Greenwich Village, and made phone calls to one annoyed little brother. I used the Palm Pre Plus, wanting to avoid any issues that might be a result of the antenna problems on the iPhone 4, and my experience was mostly positive. I had two dropped calls in Union Square, but otherwise was able to have conversations without problem.

Finally, for a more comprehensive and detailed look at the service in your area, including average signal strength, data throughput, and dropped calls, be sure to check out our Root Wireless carrier coverage map and don't forget to help us rate carrier coverage by contributing your own data.

All measuresments are in kilobits per second

CNET building; Midtown

Download Upload
AT&T Average: 1243; Maximum:1412 Average: 43; Maximum: 95
Sprint Average: 104; Maximum: 167 Average: 295; Maximum: 805
T-Mobile Average: 157; Maximum: 168 Average: 128; Maximum: 145
Verizon Average: 123; Maximum: 131 Average: 281; Maximum: 425

Columbus Circle

Download Upload
AT&T Average: 1683; Maximum: 1822 Average: 96; Maximum: 96
Sprint Average: 601; Maximum: 621 Average: 164; Maximum: 352
T-Mobile Average: 2021; Maximum: 2260 Average: 1315; Maximum: 1321
Verizon Average: 1491; Maximum: 1944 Average: 910; Maximum: 969

Times Square

Download Upload
AT&T Average: 302; Maximum: 409 Average: 46; Maximum: 49
Sprint Average: 947; Maximum: 1524 Average: 365; Maximum: 416
T-Mobile Average: 1247; Maximum: 1962 Average: 1259; Maximum: 1315
Verizon Average: 182; Maximum: 270 Average: 983; Maximum: 1231

Union Square

Download Upload
AT&T Average: 952; Maximum: 377 Average: 41; Maximum: 42
Sprint Average: 151; Maximum: 250 Average: 477; Maximum: 844
T-Mobile Average: 1481; Maximum: 1866 Average: 1972; Maximum: 3375
Verizon Average: 182; Maximum: 270 Average: 983; Maximum: 1231