Wifi 3G and Edge Data Transfer Speeds

I use my iPhone for more and more all the time. When I have a good wifi signal, life is perfect. A strong 3G signal is ofen better for me than a crappy wifi signal. I fear an edge connection, or the worst of all “Searching…”

So what’s the difference between these 3 connection speeds?

I did this test while sitting on my living room couch tonight:

iPhone SpeedTest on home wifi

iPhone SpeedTest on home wifi

The first test was while connected to my home network. I have Time Warner Cable as my ISP and generally have pretty good speeds.

I used the iPhone app from Speedtest.net to do the test.

Wifi Results

Connected to my home wireless network, which in turn is connected to TWC’s cable network I recoded a download speed of almost 3Mbs/second and upload speeds of roughly 350 kb/second.

The ping test (which is shown in the middle circle of the gauge) was 145 ms which is pretty good.

In a perfect world, this would be the baseline for all data transference.

3G Results

Switching off the wifi let me re-run the test, this time making use of the AT&T 3G network.

I know that the connection speed will be affected by the strength of the connection to a certain degree, but again, this is just to give you an idea.

iPhone 3G speedtest

iPhone 3G speedtest

3G upload speed was still impressive although it was less than half the speed of my wifi. Interestingly, the upload speed was twice as fast.

The ping test was twice as slow which makes me think that in general 3G speed will be about half of a good wifi connection.

There has been more than once where I’ve been connected to a public wifi network that was either overloaded or just plain bad and have ended up switching over to 3G.

AT&T’s Edge Network Speed

Back in the old days, pre-iPhone anyway, the edge network was state-of-the-art. Now it’s a dinosaur.

When I went to buy my iPhone a couple years ago, the day I walked in and asked to see a 3GS, the guy said that they didn’t have any in stock, but they did have a 3G and “that there is really no difference”.

That statement caught me off-guard so I called my buddy who told me that an iPhone without 3G was so frustrating it wasn’t worth buying. I told the guy at the AT&T store that I would get my 3GS at another store.

I called around and found one in the next town over, and I’m glad I did.

iPhone Edge speedtest

iPhone Edge speedtest

The speed of the Edge Network was basically pathetic.

The ping was an astonishing 1120ms!

The download speed of sub-100kbps means that tasks like checking in become painfully slow. Walking from the car to the front door probably won’t be enough time to call up Foursquare or TriOut.

The upload speed might as well have said unavailable.

What kind of speeds are you seeing?

How about you guys on other networks?

I’d love to get more numbers in the comments.

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  1. Phil, thanks for this. Its a pretty fair representation of reality. At home on my TWC cable modem, I see similar results. I can, if my WiFi is playing nicely get close to the 6MB down and 384M up. I see similar ping times on WiFi. However I don’t consider 145ms a good ping time. It may be good for the iPhone, but running the same speed tests on my laptop gets sub 30ms ping times. I’m not sure why the iPhone has trouble in this area. 145ms is tolerable, but it could be a lot better.

    Edge is pretty slow. You’re not going to stream music or video on it. But for text based services like email and twitter, it should be reasonably functional.

  2. @Rob – I agree about the ping times, I edited out a line that said, “in the real world, a ping of 145 would indicate a problem in the network” – but then I thought it was a bit too techie since most readers don’t have a frame of reference.

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  4. I just tested it from the office where I have 5 bars and have a tower within 100 yards:

    2.3mb down, 1.24mb up and a ping time of 298ms.

    You have 2 bars and was roughly half of what I got. I changed to the Charlotte server and got 2.99 down, 1.23 up and a 336ms ping time.