Most experts say Verizon's mobile broadband is the best option for consumers nationwide. Verizon's quick new 4G network is the critics' darling -- in tests, it sometimes exceeds Verizon's promised 5 to 12 Mbps download speeds -- and Verizon is aggressively expanding it, planning to cover more than 145 markets nationwide by the end of 2011. If you leave the 4G coverage area, you'll automatically fall back on Verizon's nearly nationwide 3G network (which Verizon plans to cover entirely with 4G by the end of 2013).
Some negatives crept into Verizon's otherwise stellar 4G reviews in early 2011: A two-day 4G outage in April reportedly caused some users problems for more than a week afterward, and in May, Laptop Magazine's Mark Spoonauer complained that his Verizon 4G constantly drops his connection during his daily commute from New Jersey to New York. Reviewers also note that Verizon has killed its unlimited data plan. Plans now range from 1 GB (*Est. $20 per month) to 10 GB (*Est. $80 per month). If you exceed the usage limits, you'll pay $10 to $20 per additional GB, depending on the plan. Verizon offers daily, weekly and monthly prepaid plans, but only for 3G -- 4G requires a contract. Verizon does include free Wi-Fi access at hotspots nationwide (bookstores, airports, etc.) with all plans. If you'd rather have unlimited 4G access, reviews recommend Clearwire Clear Mobile Broadband (*Est. $20 to $55 per month), although it's not available everywhere.
The best review of Verizon Mobile Broadband comes from PC World, which includes the carrier in a 13-city test of the four major providers -- Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile -- looking separately at 3G and 4G service. The testing process is detailed, and each service gets its own lengthy analysis. We also found outstanding expert tests and analysis at Laptop Magazine, Mobile-Broadband-Reviews.com, Wired and Computerworld. Ratings at ConsumerReports.org, J.D. Power and Associates, PCMag.com and DSLReports.com are based on customer feedback.
1. PC World
Verizon easily trounces all of its competition in this test of 4G mobile broadband speed for laptops, although T-Mobile proves faster with smartphones. PC World tests all four major carriers multiple times in 13 cities nationwide.
Review: 4G Wireless Speed Tests: Which Is Really the Fastest?, Mark Sullivan, March 13, 2011
2. PC World
This test is similar to the one above, only it deals with 3G speeds. Overall, Mark Sullivan notes some decreases in Verizon's 3G speeds since the previous year. AT&T is the overall winner of this test.
Review: AT&T Roars Back in PCWorld's Second 3G Wireless Performance Test, Mark Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2010
ConsumerReports.org compares Verizon with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, both overall and city-by-city. Each provider is rated for voice and data services, as well as for value and customer support.
Review: Cell Phones and Services, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Jan. 2011
4. Laptop Magazine
Verizon gets an A- in this review, the best grade of any 4G provider. However, Mark Spoonauer says in a later article that he gets a lot of dropped connections with Verizon 4G in his ongoing tests.
Review: 4G Report Card: Who's Winning, Who's Failing, Mark Spoonauer, March 18, 2011
This website publishes a comprehensive chart comparing 4G services from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and Clear, ultimately recommending Verizon as the fastest. However, Verizon doesn't offer unlimited service like Sprint and Clear do.
Review: 4G Comparison [Infographic] 2011 Review, Marc Aarons, April 28, 2011
Verizon is the fastest of the major 4G networks, according to this article. It cites tests conducted in Seattle by RootMetrics and in Oakland, Calif., by TechnoBuffalo.
Review: Verizon's 4G Network Leaves Other Carriers in the Dust, Christina Bonnington, March 21, 2011
Verizon 4G beats Sprint 4G in this test in the New York City area. Even though it's not available everywhere, Brian Nadel recommends Verizon 4G as "the fastest way I've found to connect on the road."
Review: 4G Shootout: Verizon LTE vs. Sprint WiMAX, Brian Nadel, Feb. 3, 2011
8. J.D. Power and Associates
Verizon Wireless performs best among wireless carriers in five of the six regions of the U.S., according to this customer survey. It also rates highly for customer satisfaction.
Review: Telecom Ratings, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, March 2011
Verizon Wireless earns a Readers' Choice award in PCMag's annual service and reliability survey. While this survey focuses on voice communications, the issues covered in the survey -- customer service, coverage and tech support -- apply to mobile broadband customers as well. Verizon also excels in a recent 4G test.
Review: Cellular Service Providers: Contract Providers, Ben Gottesman, Sept. 7, 2010
Verizon earns a Silver Award here, second only to T-Mobile among mobile broadband providers. Most users praise Verizon for reliable connections and continual improvements, but speed varies.
Review: Charts -- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Contributors to DSLReports.com
Based on price, speed, coverage and other factors, Verizon ranks first among seven mobile broadband providers, editors say. They give Verizon excellent ratings for data network reliability, speed, customer support and coverage.
Review: Verizon Wireless, Editors of TopTenReviews.com