Sprint's 3G and 4G services performed worse than any other carrier's in our study. Sprint's 3G CDMA network has fared poorly in our study for the past two years. And though our tests show that Sprint's 4G WiMax service is marginally faster this year than last year, it's still not in the same league as its rivals' LTE services.
Sprint 3G clocked average speeds of 0.59 mbps (590 kbps) for downloads and 0.56 mbps (560 kbps) for uploads--adequate speeds for basic mobile tasks such as browsing the Web (slowly) and checking email, but problematic for streaming video or music.
There isn't much good news about Sprint's existing 4G WiMax service either. We tested Sprint WiMax last year in seven of the cities included in this year's study. In those seven cities, the service's average speeds improved from 1.99 mbps for downloads and 0.61 mbps for uploads to 2.66 mbps for downloads and 0.92 mbps for uploads. But Sprint's 4G service is about as fast as AT&T's HSPA+ service, and quite a bit slower than T-Mobile's HSPA+ 21 service. Most people consider both of these forms of HSPA+ to be 3G.
Sprint is clearly a company at a technology crossroads. In 2007, eager to be the first U.S. carrier to launch 4G service, Sprint chose the best technology then available, WiMax. Now it's paying a price for that decision in a wireless ecosystem that has overwhelmingly embraced the newer, faster LTE technology.