Daniel Vasquez: 4G service, choices spread across South Florida

Daniel Vasquez
Contact ReporterSun Sentinel Columnist

4G wireless service is hyped big time in TV and magazine advertisements because it is the gold standard in cell phone technology, but choosing which service and plan offered locally is not always easy to figure out.

Fortunately the choices and quality of service keeps improving throughout South and Central Florida because major carriers continue to beef up local cellular systems and offer more access to 4G service.

Verizon Wireless rolled out its 4G LTE service in 14 Florida markets last year , including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. AT&T launched 4G LTE in Orlando last month. T-Mobile now offers 4G service in 17 Florida cities, including Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. And MetroPCS has 4G in Broward, Palm Beach and Orange counties, offering the only no contract, unlimited 4G service in these areas.

But the key question for consumers remains: Which company offers the best service in my town?

The answer depends on what you need.

Verizon Wireless offers the best overall service in South Florida, according to a recent industry report, beating AT&T, Sprint, MetroPCS and T-Mobile. Verizon also ranked number one in data and text categories with RootMetrics, which independently reviews carriers and recently checked carrier performance in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

But if making calls is the most important thing to you, there may be little difference between providers. RootMetrics called a "draw" in the phone call category.

What you should know about 4G:

What is 4G? It is the fourth generation cellular standard used by carriers, offering faster data and video downloads speeds for mobile devices, compared to 3G service.

Who can use 4G? Anyone with a 4G service plan and 4G-capable device.

How much is 4G? Data plans start around $30 a month, but that may be in addition to the cost of your current voice plan. T-Mobile offers a Web-exclusive for $30 with 100 minutes talk time and unlimited Web and text. For $40 a month, MetroPCS offers unlimited talk, text and Web. Shop around.

Where is 4G?: Broward, Palm Beach and Orange counties. Check carrier Websites for coverage maps.

Devices: New ones arrive almost daily. Released this month: The Droid 4, the thinnest 4G QWERTY smartphone; $199 with two-year Verizon contract. The Pantech Element tablet with 8-inch HD touch screen, and Pantech Burst smartphone; $249.99 when purchased together from AT&T, which sells about 30 4G devices.

dvasquez@tribune.com, 954-356-4219 or 561-243-6686.

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