T-Mobile mobile broadband ranks second in reviews, behind Verizon Mobile Broadband (*Est. $20 to $80 per month). T-Mobile gets slightly higher scores for customer service, but Verizon's LTE 4G network speed blows away T-Mobile's HSPA+ network in most tests. Experts say Verizon tends to meet or exceed its 5 to 12 Mbps download speed claims, but T-Mobile doesn't say what real-life speeds you can expect with its 4G network. Various testers achieve from 1.5 Mbps to 8 Mbps with T-Mobile 4G, depending on whether they're using a smartphone or a laptop and what city they're in. T-Mobile's 4G network covers 100 U.S. metropolitan areas, and its 3G capabilities don't extend much farther. T-Mobile has boosted its 4G speeds in 55 cities to twice their previous level, but we found no real-world tests of the new speeds.
T-Mobile's contract plans range from 200 MB (*Est. $30 per month) to 10 GB (*Est. $85 per month), with free Wi-Fi at thousands of T-Mobile hotspots nationwide in airports, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks and other locations. Rather than charging overage fees, T-Mobile throttles your data speed once you hit your limit. T-Mobile also offers no-contract prepaid mobile broadband plans, ranging from a 100 MB one-week pass (*Est. $10) to a 3 GB month pass (*Est. $50).
T-Mobile is included in PC World's comprehensive test of the four major 4G mobile broadband providers. This 13-city test is one of the best sources of information on which mobile broadband providers have the fastest speeds and most reliable signals. Mobile-Broadband-Reviews.com, Laptop Magazine and MSNBC.com also judge T-Mobile 4G against its rivals, based on speed tests and other criteria. ConsumerReports.org, J.D. Power and Associates and DSLReports.com base their ratings on customer surveys and user reviews.
1. PC World
T-Mobile impresses PC World testers with the fastest average smartphone data speeds and the second-fastest when using laptops. PC World tests all four major 4G networks in 13 cities for this article.
Review: 4G Wireless Speed Tests: Which Is Really the Fastest?, Mark Sullivan, March 13, 2011
T-Mobile isn't as fast as Verizon, but it does offer a broad 4G footprint, according to this comprehensive infographic comparing 4G services. A link leads to an in-depth review of T-Mobile.
Review: 4G Comparison [Infographic] 2011 Review, Marc Aarons, April 28, 2011
3. Laptop Magazine
T-Mobile gets a C+ for its 4G efforts here, placing it behind Verizon and Sprint but ahead of AT&T. In Laptop's tests, speeds vary depending on which 4G handset you have, and Mark Spoonauer says he wishes T-Mobile would tell customers clearly what average speed to expect.
Review: 4G Report Card: Who's Winning, Who's Failing, Mark Spoonauer, March 18, 2011
T-Mobile handily wins this test, with faster 4G smartphone speeds than AT&T or Sprint. Verizon wasn't included in the test because it didn't offer any 4G smartphones at the time.
Review: Putting 4G to the Speed Test, Wilson Rothman, Feb. 9, 2011
T-Mobile wireless voice and data services are compared with those of AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and U.S. Cellular, based on feedback from more than 58,000 subscribers. This article also ranks the companies' customer service.
Review: Cell Phones and Services, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Jan. 2011
T-Mobile is the highest-rated mobile broadband provider at this website, based on customer feedback, and it earns the site's Gold Award. The carrier gets straight As and Bs in every category, including reliability, tech support and value. A link leads to user reviews.
Review: Charts -- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Contributors to DSLReports.com
7. J.D. Power and Associates
T-Mobile wins J.D. Power and Associates' 2011 Wireless Customer Care Performance Study. The providers (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are also rated) are only judged on one criterion -- overall customer satisfaction.
Review: 2011 Wireless Customer Care Performance Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, March 2011