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Thread: LTE Speeds Vary Widely

  1. #1
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    LTE Speeds Vary Widely

    So I was in California (SF Bay area) when I got my iPhone 5. I am working away from my home state for quite a while. While there with 2-3 bars i'd pull anywhere from 8Mbit - 12Mbit, and with 3-4 bars I was hitting 20-40Mbit.

    I recently visited home back on the east coast, in a far less populated area though one that has LTE, and was curious to see such a huge speed difference. At home with 2-3 bars I'm getting 1-3Mbit. With full signal 3-4 bars the most I'm seeing is about 10Mbit, but that happens far less often and I'm usually around 3-4Mbit.

    Can anyone explain why there is such a huge speed difference in my locations if my signal strength is the same and the area I visited is far less populated.

    In my mind, less people on LTE = more speed in a given area...unless all VZW LTE is not created equally.

    Any info is helpful.

    Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by agentphish View Post
    So I was in California (SF Bay area) when I got my iPhone 5. I am working away from my home state for quite a while. While there with 2-3 bars i'd pull anywhere from 8Mbit - 12Mbit, and with 3-4 bars I was hitting 20-40Mbit.

    I recently visited home back on the east coast, in a far less populated area though one that has LTE, and was curious to see such a huge speed difference. At home with 2-3 bars I'm getting 1-3Mbit. With full signal 3-4 bars the most I'm seeing is about 10Mbit, but that happens far less often and I'm usually around 3-4Mbit.

    Can anyone explain why there is such a huge speed difference in my locations if my signal strength is the same and the area I visited is far less populated.

    In my mind, less people on LTE = more speed in a given area...unless all VZW LTE is not created equally.

    Any info is helpful.

    Thanks
    I have noticed some drops of speed on LTE around my area too. But if I wait and test it in a few minutes its back to 20-30MBs and Ive seen some low 30's lately I haven't seen since it went live in May. One of the reasons you see those speed differences is that not all areas are as well fiber back hauled as others. The other issue is that some areas have a denser area of cellular towers. When you travel to a larger city they have alot of fiber compared to smaller cities and they usually don't need it currently so you get these extremely fast speeds.

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    Thanks,

    I should also clarify that LTE was a recent roll out (within the last 2 months) to my area. In my travels at home I've been close to and far from several known VZW towers and my results have been the same regardless. Sometimes even lower, in a couple of instances I didn't even get 1Mbit and I wasn't more than 2 miles from a tower.

    I guess knowing that I got the phone and had it in SF Bay area for 3 days before coming back here and seeing the speeds there where there are far more densely populated areas I just expected it to be at least as good in my home area.

    I know it's not the phone. The phone is awesome. VZW possibly not as awesome in my area.

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    It depends on the market. Like if your in LA you would be in an area with more spectrum. Which is why ATT might be slower in that area. So yes, LTE is not created equally.

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    Of course it'll vary. It's an Airlink, data is shared and it suffers all kinds of interference. It depends on the time of the day, number of users connected to the same cell site/sector, backhaul of the site, if it's an urban or rural area, etc. It's never gonna be perfect. The best you can do is to try testing very late at night, under the site, hoping that no one else is connected to see the actual backhaul of the cell site.
    Verizon Wireless 20Mhz FDD LTE

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    I do find that speeds fluctuate but that can be expected on wireless technology. On an Iphone 5 my speeds seem to average between 10-30 down and 5-20 up with sub 50ms pings. I am satisfied and I realize that AT&T LTE has higher speeds than VZW, at least in my area, but true unlimited beats out capped unlimited any day. Also, even though I occasionally get speeds lower than what I quoted I have never got speeds below advertised Verizon speeds: as low as 5 on download and as low as 2 on upload.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bluesamg View Post
    It depends on the market. Like if your in LA you would be in an area with more spectrum. Which is why ATT might be slower in that area. So yes, LTE is not created equally.
    Verizon's LTE is 20 Mhz all around. 10 down and 10 up. There is no extra spectrum for it in different cities at this time.

    As for the OP's question, LTE spectrum is created equally, and signal strength clearly isn't the limiting factor to your speeds at home. I'd say that either number of people per towers/antennas is higher in the rural area you visited, resulting in slower speeds on average, or quite possibly the rural area has limited bandwidth and so verizon in a smaller market can estimate how much bandwidth they need to buy for their coverage and only put that much on the tower, thus saving money in providing services. The key for them is averaging 5-12mbps down and 2-5mbps up. Anything over that is just a sign of an unsaturated network.

    As for these variation, they can occur even within a single market. I rand speed tests in a town south of me yesterday. got 2-3 tests running 20mbps down, then drove across the intersection and into a gas station, not more than 100 ft away and was getting 6-8mbps down. Signal was still quite strong and not a limiting factor. Speeds tower to tower can vary. I've seen the same in towns east of me, some towers stuggle with 3-4mbps down and 6-7mbps down depending on the test, while a couple miles away another tower might provide 30mbps down and 15mbps up consistently.

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    So these are all taken on the first floor of my house and 3rd floor of my house where I have better signal in my location. Just as an example of how slow it can be and how fast it can be in the same location.

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    First thing to note is that SpeedTest.net is not completely flawless. The iPhone app is annoying because you can't select which "server" you are connecting to on the Internet. I'm fairly sure it auto-selects based on GPS or some sort of IP reverse lookup. Going from SF Bay to your home area will surely have put you on a different server. The Android version is nicer because you can manually pick other servers and confirm the issue is the server and not your phone/tower.

    If I were you, I would try to find some other way to test the speed and confirm you are truly receiving less than 5 Mbps in all cases. If this is the case, then by all means contact Verizon and open a ticket because 4G LTE is boasted as guaranteeing between 5 and 12 Mbps consistently. If the problem is backhaul or capacity in the area, they will light up new towers or get more backhaul to accomodate.

    --Kidd
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    A number times my LTE speeds have been in the 3 to 6 mb down on my Iphone 5. So far cycling airplane mode has restored much faster speeds. Couple of times my phone was stuck on 3G until I cycled it. Similar behavior as my Droid LTE phones, I guess LTE/3G tower hand offs are still "Beta" in some areas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexKidd1977 View Post
    First thing to note is that SpeedTest.net is not completely flawless. The iPhone app is annoying because you can't select which "server" you are connecting to on the Internet. I'm fairly sure it auto-selects based on GPS or some sort of IP reverse lookup. Going from SF Bay to your home area will surely have put you on a different server. The Android version is nicer because you can manually pick other servers and confirm the issue is the server and not your phone/tower.

    --Kidd
    Completely inaccurate. The iPhone App uses location services to determine which server is closest to where you are currently using your iPhone. Furthermore you can choose any other server you want to quite easily by tapping the settings button at the bottom of the screen.

    Here's where I get into an issue. Verizon has admitted to me that I live in a "Marginal" signal area at my home. They even offered to let me out of my contract ETF free. I really only have issues on the first floor of my home. On the 3rd floor in my bedroom I have no issues...other than it's a super big bummer to make calls up there...data is much faster up there too as evidenced by my screenshots.

    Verizon techs 3 levels up on the phone who handled sending someone to my house to determine the actual coverage has told me they will not be building any towers closer to my home and that there is no way to give better signal or throughput at my location.

    I thought getting an LTE based device on their brand new (in my area) LTE equipment might help everything...but I guess I was hoping for too much.

    AT&T is no better at my home either and I refuse to do business with them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by agentphish View Post
    Completely inaccurate. The iPhone App uses location services to determine which server is closest to where you are currently using your iPhone. Furthermore you can choose any other server you want to quite easily by tapping the settings button at the bottom of the screen.

    Here's where I get into an issue. Verizon has admitted to me that I live in a "Marginal" signal area at my home. They even offered to let me out of my contract ETF free. I really only have issues on the first floor of my home. On the 3rd floor in my bedroom I have no issues...other than it's a super big bummer to make calls up there...data is much faster up there too as evidenced by my screenshots.

    Verizon techs 3 levels up on the phone who handled sending someone to my house to determine the actual coverage has told me they will not be building any towers closer to my home and that there is no way to give better signal or throughput at my location.

    I thought getting an LTE based device on their brand new (in my area) LTE equipment might help everything...but I guess I was hoping for too much.

    AT&T is no better at my home either and I refuse to do business with them.
    Marginal coverage eh? Why does your iphone show 4 bars then? I'm not sure what signal strength in dbm that would equate to, but I can't imagine that is a weak 4g signal. Do they also show full lte coverage in your area on their map? Marginal coverage areas that can't get decent signal should definitely show extended lte coverage at best.

    Also it is possible to get a signal amplifier that could give you decent usable lte from what I understand.

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    Likely reason for LTE variance

    Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate LTE isn't present on every tower. This makes LTE coverage more spotty than 1x or 3G in the same area.

    My own home neighborhood has very weak LTE coverage, but strong 3G. The closest tower to my home is part of a leased space on the roof of a nearby building adjacent to a Dairy Queen. Anyway, my guess is that my closest tower doesn't have LTE presently. It would be possible to verify this, but I've witnessed this behavior in enough places to have convinced myself.

    Strategy-wise (assuming I'm correct) this also allows Verizon to build rapidly (which is what we've been seeing) and later create better density as demand grows.

    -Dan
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    Quote Originally Posted by dalbrich View Post
    Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate LTE isn't present on every tower. This makes LTE coverage more spotty than 1x or 3G in the same area.

    My own home neighborhood has very weak LTE coverage, but strong 3G. The closest tower to my home is part of a leased space on the roof of a nearby building adjacent to a Dairy Queen. Anyway, my guess is that my closest tower doesn't have LTE presently. It would be possible to verify this, but I've witnessed this behavior in enough places to have convinced myself.

    Strategy-wise (assuming I'm correct) this also allows Verizon to build rapidly (which is what we've been seeing) and later create better density as demand grows.

    -Dan
    The problem is you get these weak areas that can't live up to verizon's promised speeds, with no information on when it will be fixed. They might not even have it fixed by the time they finish their LTE rollout. It could very well take a couple years from now depending on the location.

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    Timing-- real LTE speed

    Quote Originally Posted by ben7337 View Post
    The problem is you get these weak areas that can't live up to verizon's promised speeds, with no information on when it will be fixed. They might not even have it fixed by the time they finish their LTE rollout. It could very well take a couple years from now depending on the location.
    Yes, I agree with you. In my area, Verizon has 3G basically everywhere, including hundreds of miles where AT&T has only GPRS or EDGE. That being said, Verizon's 3G here in Eugene, is 500Kbits/sec at best. It's enough to read your email, or stream audio like Pandora, but not a lot else. Even my weak LTE service is getting me a low speed of 2Mb/s. My point is just that although this is lower than Verizon's advertised speed, it's 4x faster than what I'm used to. It also makes streaming video a lot more do-able.

    So perhaps I'm too forgiving, but what I see is improvement from what I had.

    -Dan

    PS: At my work which must be close to a tower with LTE, i can download 20Mb/s, with upstream same or better. So in places the speeds are pretty phenomenal. In the weak areas, it's still usable.

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