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Verizon: America’s Best 3G Network – I just became a customer

I’m demonstrating some mobile applications this week. Some of the applications that I’m showing off rely on a decent internet connection. They’re not asking for terabytes of capacity, just a good sustained 10k/sec throughput now and again.

Unfortunately I’m in America: The land of rubbish GSM mobile data speeds. AT&T’s network runs like a tired old hamster is powering the backend and T-Mobile is — in New York City at least — nothing short of *slow*.

To put it in real terms that many British readers will understand, using AT&T and T-Mobile data is like using 1/10th of an overloaded o2 data connection. And that’s saying something.

Push email just about works.

For everything else, like Google Maps, I found myself feeling like a total numpty standing on 5th Avenue in the centre of the Almighty United States of America.

You’d think they’d know how to build decent data networks here, wouldn’t you?

Turns out they do.

Enter Verizon (and Sprint).

I came up with a cunning plan whilst in England. A plan so cunning that — if you’ve got a moment, and with due deference to BlackAdder — it’s got a PhD from Cambridge. I brought my Novatel Wireless MiFi unit with me and I bought a SIM from T-Mobile yesterday. I then fired up my iPhone’s WiFi connection and tried out some apps: Rubbish. Whilst the Novatel unit performed perfectly, the dismal T-Mobile data connection was holding it back. Think ‘Edge’ network. As in ‘edge of almost being GPRS’.

Connections do work. You just need to wait tens of seconds for anything useful to happen.

So I took a trip to the Verizon and Sprint stores. CDMA networks. I know, I know. I felt dirty even walking into the stores. Despite CDMA being an apparently superior technology, I — like millions of Europeans — thoroughly appreciate being able to lord it over ‘dumb’ Americans trying to use their CDMA phones in a GSM-only continent.

Who’d buy a CDMA phone? You can’t roam!

But it turns out, you can get super, super fast reliable data.

I walked into the Verizon store next to the Empire State Building and headed straight for their Novatel MiFi 2200 unit. In tests I’d done with my iPhone’s AT&T roaming connection and through my own MiFi unit running a T-Mobile USA sim, the average network response I’d got when using one of the mobile apps was thus:

T-Mobile: 15 seconds
AT&T: 12-20 seconds

I asked permission from one of the sales people and connected my iPhone to the Novatel unit in the shop. I fired up the app. 1.5-2 seconds.

Shocking.

“I’ll take one,” I said, handing over my credit card.

Of course I wanted it pay as you go. Turns out Verizon’s keen to do business. Two years ago I’d have been laughed out the shop.

The Verizon MiFi unit set me back $269 including the $50 mail-in rebate. $15/day gets you 75mb/day usage. I opted for $30 for 250mb across a week. Or you can get 500mb for $50.

Back at the hotel I setup the unit in 180 seconds and boom my iPhones and my Android devices are connecting at blazing fast speeds.

I don’t even know what kind of network speed we’re talking. It just works, and brilliantly.

To all the frustrated American iPhone AT&T customers out there, I hope there will soon be a CDMA iPhone to ease your pain.

That said you can experience the super-fast Verizon network via the Motorola Droid Android device right now. If I was living in America for any length of time, I think I’d do that. Or run my iPhone through the Verizon MiFi.

I kid ye not, it’s fast than my hotel broadband connection.

More information on the Verizon data plans here.

Sprint also have a MiFi unit (similar price) and I’m sure they provide a very good data service in New York. I’ve only tried them in San Francisco and I wasn’t disappointed.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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