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AZ Tech Beat | November 15, 2019

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New rating shows Sky Harbor Airport download speeds equate to a herd of turtles

New rating shows Sky Harbor Airport download speeds equate to a herd of turtles
Travis Arbon

If you’ve ever been to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport you may have noticed your cell phone reception probably wasn’t all that great. You’re not alone.

According to a report released by RootMetrics, an organization that tests and rates cell service coverage, Sky Harbor ranked 39th out of the 50 largest airports in the country in terms of 4G LTE data speeds.

RootMetrics rated call and text message quality in addition to data speeds in order to come up with the rankings.

Topping the list was Southwest Florida International Airport, with median data speeds of 38, 13, 9.7 and 8.6 Mbps from Verizon, Sprint, ATT and T-Mobile respectively.

At Sky Harbor, the story was much different. T-Mobile lead the pack at 13.3 Mbps, while Verizon and Sprint only managed a measly 1.8 and 0.6 Mbps.

So why might speeds at Sky Harbor be so much lower? One thing to consider is the number of passengers coming through the airport each day.

According to the Airports Council International – North America, Sky Harbor was the 11th most trafficked passenger airport the country in 2013. More than 40 million people streamed through those doors and it’s increasing every month. According to a Sky Harbor press release, the airport has experienced about 4 percent growth since September 2013.

But that can’t be an excuse for turtle speed service because the country’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, experienced speeds well above 25 Mbps for every carrier except Sprint, which only achieved 0.4.

If we check the locations of cell towers in the Phoenix area, it’s easy to see why T-Mobile has the best overall service at Sky Harbor. It’s the only carrier with a tower inside or on the airport. In fact, it has two.

So if you’re travelling through Sky Harbor, you may want to use the WiFi. Luckily, the airport recently upgraded its WiFi services by partnering with Boingo Wireless to bring faster speeds and better security to the network.

Read: How to play hide-and-seek online – tools to protect your privacy

It’s also equipped with Passpoint support, which means that once you’ve signed in to Sky Harbor WiFi once, you won’t have to read a lengthy terms of service agreement or sign in again. Your phone will log in automatically if you’re nearby.

Even so, for those of you who need to work on sensitive information while you travel, but still want the faster speeds of WiFi, you should probably use a VPN to keep your data secure.

Have you traveled through Sky Harbor recently? Let us know on social media or in the comments about your experience with the cell reception or WiFi speeds and how it compares to other airports.