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Cell service at US airports varies from first class to middle-seat coach

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Need something to watch on a flight? You can download an episode of your favorite show in less than a minute and a half on Verizon Wireless at Atlanta’s airport—or spend 13 hours doing the same over T-Mobile USA at Los Angeles International.

The comparison of 45-minute HD video downloads illustrates the wide variation in cellular service at U.S. airports, which RootMetrics laid out in a report for the first half of 2015 that’s being issued Thursday. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson is the best place to go mobile and Verizon covers airports best overall, but just like security lines and de-icing delays, it all depends.

RootMetrics tested mobile data connections using all four major carriers at the 50 busiest airports in the country, checking not just for speed but for how long it took to get on and how well the connection stayed up. The tests took place in well-used places like ticketing, baggage claim and terminal gates. RootMetrics didn’t test voice service or Wi-Fi networks.

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