Surprise! AT&T might just have the best 3G network in the US

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We may give AT&T a bit of grief for the fact that their network essentially curled up into a ball and cried for two years after the launch of the first iPhone, but they’ve been dumping a ton of change into improving things over the last 8 months — and it looks like its helped.

A lot.

The crew over at PCWorld ran a fairly in-depth series of tests across 13 major cities in the US, comparing 3G download and upload speeds and network reliability across AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. The hands down winner? AT&T.

AT&T’s download speed averaged nearly double that of the competition, and the same goes for upload. From Baltimore to Seattle, AT&T rarely dipped below 1,000kbps, while the competition rarely climbed above 1,000kbps.

Average reliability (as tested by continuous 1-minute performance tests) leveled out at 92% for T-Mobile and Verizon, with AT&T and Sprint coming in just a wee bit higher at 94%. This is a huge change from when PCWorld ran a similar test 8 months ago, when AT&T’s reliability was puttering out somewhere around 64%.

Of course, this is solely a performance test. Other important metrics — such as coverage maps — don’t come into play. Either way, keep it up, AT&T – we (and everyone else on the Internet) may give you flack at every opportunity, but it certainly seems like things are on the up and up.

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