AT&T's Houston LTE network offers good speeds, study finds

The Signals Research study also found poorer-than-expected network latency

AT&T's new Houston LTE network offers users' high data speeds, but poorer-than-expected network latency, according to an independent evaluation by Signals Research. AT&T launched LTE networks in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago and Atlanta on Sunday.

The Signals study, conducted prior to Sunday's formal launch, showed average data rates of 23.6 Mbps on downlink tests and average data rates of 15.2 Mbps on uplink tests.

A laptop dongle was provided by AT&T for the tests on its Houston network.

The average latency, or delay between sending a signal and receiving a response, was 49ms, which is "on par" with other LTE markets in North America, though it was "worse than we were expecting," according to the Signals report.

Signals said that a 3G network in Houston with a large number of subscribers, operated by an unnamed AT&T competitor, had a lower latency reading of 27ms during a morning rush hour.

"In general, we have been disappointed with the latency on the LTE networks in North America," the report said. "Latency is an area for improvement."

An AT&T spokesman said the report "speaks for itself," adding that AT&T neither commissioned nor paid for the study.

AT&T hasn't officially disclosed expected data speeds or latency of its LTE networks The carrier has only said the speeds and latency will be better than those available on 3G networks and even AT&T's own 4G HSPA+ network with fiber optic backhaul.

AT&T rival Verizon Wireless offers LTE networks in 143 cities, and has said average data rates are 5 to 12 Mbps for downloads and 2Mbps to 5 Mbps for uploads. Verizon hasn't stated a specific number for average latency, although LTE technology is widely viewed as improving latency over older networks.

Signals noted that its results were based primarily on driving through Houston to make connections when there were few users and all of the network's LTE cell towers were not yet in place.

"There are relatively so few [users] today and the combination of their distribution across the network and their usage patterns tends to minimize or completely eliminate the impact of their presence," the study noted.

Prior to the formal launch of the network. Signals performed three days of LTE testing mainly in downtown Houston by repeatedly tapping into servers across the U.S.

While the average downlink was 23.6 Mbps, the maximum rate was 61.1 Mbps. The data downlink rate was greater than 5 Mbps 95% of the time.

Uplink tests found an average 15.2 Mbps rate, with a peak of 23.6 Mbps. The rate exceeded 5 Mbps more than 98% of the time, the study found.

The study was provided to Computerworld by AT&T.

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 e-mail address is .

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