The race for 5G speed is over and T-Mobile has won | Digital Trends


Every few months, a new market analysis comes out comparing the best 5G performance and availability among US carriers. Each time, we wonder if the latest report will finally topple T-Mobile, which has held a lead over rivals AT&T and Verizon for years. However, with each new report, T-Mobile pushes forward while AT&T and Verizon remain in the dust.

With that in mind, Opensignal’s latest 5G experience report doesn’t bring too many surprises, at least broadly speaking. T-Mobile continues to deliver 5G download speeds that are more than double that of any other carrier and more than double the 5G availability. That means you’ll not only get faster performance on T-Mobile’s 5G network, but you’re more likely to be able to find a 5G connection.

This is a stark contrast to the early days of 5G, when Verizon’s short-range mmWave network offered jaw-dropping download speeds of up to 4Gbps for the lucky 1% of Verizon subscribers who could find a mmWave transceiver.

However, while T-Mobile may be best in overall download speeds and availability, there is a bit of nuance here. Analysis from Opensignals shows that Verizon and AT&T are still holding their own against the un-carrier behemoth in some regions and when it comes to some aspects of the 5G experience.

The 5G speed plateau

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T-Mobile had a big lead in rolling out faster midrange 5G services thanks to its 2020 merger with Sprint, while Verizon and AT&T couldn’t roll out similar midrange spectrum until their C-band deployments are up. started in early 2022.

While many believed that C-Band would close the gap to T-Mobile, that hasn’t happened. When Verizon began aggressively rolling out new spectrum in January 2022, its average 5G download speed increased nearly 52% virtually overnight, breaking the 100Mbps barrier for the first time.

However, that initial meteoric rise turned out to be a one-time phenomenon. Since then, Verizon’s average speeds have danced around that 100Mbps cap. Meanwhile, T-Mobile hasn’t sat on its hips, but has continued to expand its coverage far and wide, not just preserving its advantage, but going even further.

However, we may be peaking at 5G, as T-Mobile’s numbers have also stabilized around 200Mbps in recent months. T-Mobile’s average download speed nationwide now stands at 195.5 Mbps, which is twice as fast as Verizon’s 96.3 Mbps and over 2.4 times that of Verizon, according to Opensignals’ latest report. AT&T’s 80Mbps.

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Opensignal adds that users have seen slight increases of around 10Mbps in average 5G download speed since the last report, with Verizon that being slightly higher at 11.4Mbps compared to a 9.1Mbps increase for T-Mobile.

If you’re comparing reports, it’s also worth mentioning that the Opensignals methodology typically yields slightly lower overall numbers than Ooklas’ speed tests, which measure average download speeds rather than average speeds. However, both reports show roughly the same performance gaps.

Interestingly, Verizon slightly outperformed T-Mobile when it came to average 5G upload speeds, averaging 18.5Mbps compared to T-Mobiles 18.2Mbps. This is a statistically insignificant difference, so we think it’s fair to call it a draw. However, what is significant is that Verizon has been ahead in this area since the last report, gaining 2.4Mbps, snapping T-Mobile’s seven win streak.

T-Mobile’s rapid expansion continues

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Fast 5G speeds won’t do you much good if you can’t find a 5G network, and this is another area where T-Mobile makes great strides, boasting 57.9% availability in Opensignals’ latest report.

The Opensignals availability metric does not directly measure geographic coverage; instead, it measures the percentage of time that those with a 5G phone and 5G plan are actually connected to a 5G network in the places where they spend most of their time. It’s a much more practical way to look into 5G coverage than worrying about whether you’ll find a 5G tower in the Nevada desert or hole-in-the-wall Wyoming.

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Despite Verizon claiming its fastest 5G Ultra Wideband network covers 200 million people, Opensignal found that Verizon customers could only find a 5G network 9.8% of the time. They spent the rest of their time on the company’s slower 4G/LTE network. This is even more surprising considering that Opensignal measures 5G availability on all bands, including Verizon’s low-bandwidth 5G nationwide network. While it may not be much faster than 4G/LTE, it does meet Opensignals’ criteria for 5G availability.

Interestingly, AT&T scored higher on this metric, with its customers accessing 5G service 20.7% of the time. Since AT&T’s midband 5G Plus network hasn’t been rolled out in more than a handful of cities, AT&T users are more likely to spend most of their time on the carrier’s slower lowband 5G network.

However, these scores pale in comparison to T-Mobile, where customers spend more than half their time with a 5G signal. T-Mobile’s 57.9% score represents an 8.2% increase from the last report, which itself was a 9.2% increase from the previous analysis. That’s still a surprisingly low number when you consider that T-Mobiles says its 5G Ultra Capacity network already covers 260 million people or more than 75% of the US population and is working to expand that to 300 million by the end of 2023. .

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When Opensignal broke these numbers down by state, T-Mobile was also the clear winner in terms of availability across the board. The Un-carrier scored the highest in the District of Columbia with 68.8% and had the most significant lead in Idaho, where its 62.2% score dwarfed the availability of AT&T and Verizon 5G, which stood at 5.7% and 7.0% respectively. Similar spreads were observed in Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Verizon offers the best 5G experience

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While T-Mobile continues to lead in terms of speed and availability, arguably the two most important metrics, Verizon remains at the top of the Opensignals 5G experience categories, covering video, live video, gaming and voice apps.

Most scores are pretty close, and all three managers rate Opensignals Good for Video Experience and Live Video Experience, which means users are able to stream video at 720p or higher with satisfactory load times and little stall when connecting to 5G.

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For Voice App Experience, Verizon and T-Mobile both scored well at 81.7 and 80.0 respectively, which means that many users are satisfied, but some experience slight quality issues. AT&T came in with a lower 78.3, putting it in the acceptable range.

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In the 5G Games Experience category, Verizon came out far ahead with a score of 81.1, while T-Mobile was slightly behind at 77.1 and AT&T fell even further behind at 68.8. This puts T-Mobile and Verizon both in the good tier, meaning that most users find the experience acceptable and don’t see a lag between their actions and the game, probably speaking of lower latency on Verizon’s 5G network . AT&T was in the right tier.

What does it all mean

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These numbers show that T-Mobile is aggressively rolling out its 5G services nationwide, making it a safe bet that Un-carrier will deliver the best 5G performance and experience for the majority of users, despite Verizons 5G Experience awards. .

It’s important to remember that these are average speeds, which means they represent the common experience of most customers nationwide, but they don’t necessarily apply to every single situation. They also don’t represent the top speeds you’re likely to see when you have good 5G coverage from one of the big three operators.

Also, if you live, work, and play in an area with good Verizon 5G mmWave coverage, there’s no doubt this will provide you with a better overall 5G experience. This is a quintessential outlier scenario, however, as studies have shown that Verizon customers spend less than 1% of their time on the carriers’ mmWave network, where each transceiver has roughly a block’s range.

However, even though 5G speeds are starting to level off, coverage hasn’t. All three carriers still have plenty of room for expansion before the nation is fully covered by 5G. If anything, this will boost average and median download speeds, particularly for AT&T and Verizon, where most customers are likely still on slower low-bandwidth networks that don’t deliver on 5G’s full promise.

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