500x_3g_test_map_2009-w-sdAs the owner of both an AT&T iPhone and a Verizon BlackBerry in San Francisco, I long ago joined the horde of iPhone whiners who complain about AT&T’s lousy service to everyone we meet.

But while my BlackBerry definitely connects in many places where the iPhone shows zero bars, Gizmodo’s new speed tests of network downloads and uploads found AT&T’s network has a higher download speed than Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon in San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

For uploads, AT&T won the race in all 12 cities tested. The much-maligned network did show high latency times between the time a download was requested and the time it started. But Gizmodo reports that these times — fractions of a second — weren’t large enough to affect the overall perceived user experience. AT&T both tested and felt faster.

“While every 3G network gave us troubles on occasion,” writer Wilson Rothman added, “AT&T’s wasn’t measurably more or less reliable than Verizon’s.”

500x_2009_3g_average_download_graphsVerizon won the download races in Las Vegas, Seattle, Phoenix and Maui. T-Mobile won Portland, and Sprint took Miami. Last year, Sprint won four cities in an eight-city test. The tests were done using laptop computers equipped with 3G wireless modems.

Rothman made clear that the focus of the time trials was 3G Internet data speed, period.

“Let’s get this straight right away,” he wrote. “We didn’t test dropped voice calls, we didn’t test customer service, and we didn’t test map coverage by wandering around in the boonies. We tested the ability of the networks to deliver 3G data in and around cities, including both concrete canyons and picket-fenced ‘burbs.” They also avoided Sprint’s 4G networks, which are already available in half the tested cities, because there are no 4G-enabled smartphones for sale yet, only WiMax modems for desktop and laptop computers.

The bad news: Network speeds aren’t much improved from last year. Downloads ranged between 0.5 and 1.5 megabits per second. That’s the speed of an entry-level DSL line from the early 2000’s, before updated cable modems blew home network speeds through the roof with 20, 30 and even 50 mbps.

[Images: Gizmodo]