A few weeks ago we received an e-mail from our Verizon Wireless representative asking if we'd have a situation where we could test out the new 4G network. Of course our team readying to go cover the New York Auto Show (NYAS), we couldn't see a better opportunity to take her up on the offer.
Verizon provided us with two USB modems and a Samsung hotspot. All three devices connect to Verizon's new 4G network, but have the ability to fall back on the old trusty 3G network.
Upon initially testing the devices in Minnesota before leaving for NYAS, we consistently saw download speeds nearing 12 MB per second, and uploads speeds nearing 3-5 MB per second. Those speeds are nearly what you get at home with cable. Not too shabby. Of course these speeds were acquired while in the suburbs of Minneapolis, not crowded New York City.
Once in New York City we immediately fired up the modems as the hotel WiFi was shady at best. It was immediately clear that in a congested city, both upload and download speeds are affected. Still, we managed to consistently see download speeds of 5 MB per second and upload speeds of 1 MB per second. Both of which easily beat the hotel WiFi and Verizon's 3G network.
On the show floor we had a completely different experience, inside on the floor we had no signal (while our cellphones did have voice/data coverage). But once we made our way downstairs to the press room, we were able to acquire two bars, which was more than enough to speedily upload photos and copy for our readers. This again was faster than the provided WiFi.
Half of our team uses Macs, while the other half uses PCs. These modems first launched initially only for PCs due to software. Since then software has been launched for the Mac, which is what we mainly used the devices on. We are sad to report that the software is still very buggy and we did end up needing to call tech support. After a quick discussion with tech support the problem was located. We had to manually manage which network the modems where connecting to. Not something the average user should have to do, or will want to do.
The Verizon Wireless 4G network is solid--and overall, this is some fast data with some cool technology behind it--though just like any other network, if you are in a congested place your experience may vary. If you use a Mac, we would highly recommend going with the hotspot instead of the USB modems. This is mainly due to that software interface, though we hear an update is coming (in an unspecified amount of time).
Why does all this matter for car-tech enthusiasts? New cars are quickly becoming rolling hotspots. Some, such as the new 2011 Audi A8, have the technology built into them. This requires you to use whatever carrier the manufacturer deals with, and you will need a data plan through that carrier. But new vehicles like the Ford Focus allow you to plug in a USB modem, this turns the car into a rolling hotspot on the carrier of your choice. In that respect, Verizon's 4G looks like a very good option.