If you have been using various forms of wired data connections, you might want to take a closer look at the various 4G wireless networks and their phones.

Based on informal tests here at ReadWriteWeb and more extensive tests elsewhere, going wireless now could be a way to speed up your Internet connection!

In my quick tests, Charter's 15Mbps cable-modem connection delivered about 9Mbps for downloads and about 3MB for uploads. That is plenty fast, though sometimes it is a lot slower than that, which is what you would expect from a shared cable modem connection. Of course, Charter offers faster services, including packages with up to 100Mbps downloads but still only 5Mbps uploads.

That compares very favorably to my tests using an AT&T 3G iPhone, which delivered about 1Mbps down and half a meg up. You could tell it was a lot slower. But the real champ was an AT&T LG Nitro 4G phone: It clocked in at nearly 19Mbps down and more than 5Mbps up! Those are pretty impressive speeds for a mobile device - the download speed is nearly twice as fast as my wired connection.

And it isn't just me: PC World found multiple megabit-per-second speeds on the various 4G networks that it tested this week as well, with AT&T reaching close to 10Mbps averaged across 10 cities.

With those kinds of speeds, your mobile device can do everything your wired devices can do. Watch a video? No problem and no pauses as it streams to the phone. Download a big fat file? Don't give it a second thought.

At least until the wireless bills come in.

That's the rub with 4G wireless: While the performance is unprecedented, you have to be very careful how you use it. As those "unlimited" data plans bite the dust in favor of expensive pay-per-MB plans, truly taking advantage of 4G speed could end up costing you hundreds of dollars per month. More than one tech columnist has reported burning through his monthly data allotments in the first day or so of usage. Not good.

Now, not all American wireless carriers are eliminating their unlimited data plans. Sprint, for example, will sell you an unlimited 4G data plan for as little as $70 a month, including 450 talk minutes. But Sprint has the poorest coverage of the four carriers here in St. Louis. And the other carriers offering "unlimited plans" are less generous, or have restrictions and lots of fine print.

RWW's mobile guru Dan Rowinski, who has written about the differences among 3G/4G here, says:

"From a theoretical perspective, the cable carriers still can provide the best speeds with hardline integrations up to 100Mbps downlinks. But those speeds from providers such as Comcast, Time Warner or RCN can become cost prohibitive for the consumer and expensive even for enterprises. When it comes to speed and functionality at a lower cost point for the average user, LTE provides speeds higher than the average cable package tied to a Wi-Fi router. In empirical testing, both Verizon and AT&T's LTE significantly outperform 3G technologies and will deliver better speeds and reliability than your home wireless. From an individual device perspective, LTE will be more cost efficient and faster than other options."

A better strategy may be to use one of the Clear.com devices. They offer unlimited WiMax/4G data for $50 a month, slightly more than what I pay for cable-modem service. The advantage is, I can take the little gizmo with me on the road and avoid those annoying wireless data charges at hotels and other hotspots.

Until now, I wasn't convinced that Clear was clearly for me. But after seeing those 4G performance numbers, I'm beginning to come around. Maybe wireless really is the way to go.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.