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Testing T-Mobile's 4G LTE

We put T-Mobile's fledgling 4G LTE network and iPhone 5 to the test.

iPhone 5, T-Mobile, 4G LTE
Just how fast is the iPhone 5 on T-Mobile's 4G LTE network? Ariel Nunez/CNET

T-Mobile just took a bold, new step by shredding the contracts for its plans plus launching its new 4G LTE data network. But what kind of speeds can you really expect to see on the carrier's hot, new devices? Judging from what I observed at T-Mobile's splashy press event in New York, apparently quite a bit.

Let's be clear, though; this testing was done on a special network set up just for this press conference. That means that the data performance I measured is likely much faster than what you'd see in the real world.

For instance, only the devices in the room, and perhaps lucky T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy Note 2 owners in New York who upgraded their software, could have possibly connected to this ad hoc cellular site.

That said, the performance I clocked was no less impressive. On the new iPhone 5, which has been specially tuned to T-Mobile's 4G LTE and HSPA+ signal, I managed downloads at a zippy 20 Mbps or more. Upload throughput came in at respectable 10 Mbps as well.

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Moving next to the HTC One, I fired up the Oookla Speed Test app that T-Mobile thoughtfully preloaded and was treated to download throughput of 20 to 30 Mbps. Uploads were blistering, too, at a staggering 15 to 20 Mbps.

I also got my hands on the upcoming BlackBerry Z10 for T-Mobile as well. While I was unable to run network tests via the Ookla Speed Test app, since there isn't one yet for BlackBerry 10, I examined performance using the service's companion Web site.

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Like the iPhone 5, The Z10 pulled down approximately 20 Mbps in terms of data. I have a suspicion, though, that since the Web site felt sluggish, if I had used a true app, throughput would have been faster.

One big letdown, however, is that I wasn't allowed to test the Samsung Galaxy S4, or even lay my hands on the device. A phalanx of PR folks and T-Mobile execs guarded the gadget as if it were made of solid gold and prevented access.

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Just how fast will T-Mobile's new 4G LTE infrastructure be out in the real world? We'll just have to find out when its full complement of compatible devices hits the airwaves and T-Mobile's LTE network unfurls in earnest this year.