Just a little over a month after seeing T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T lay out their 5G network expansion and upgrade plans for the rest of 2021 and beyond, it’s time to take a fresh look at the current status, performance, and potential of said networks out in the real world.
Of course, the speed, availability, and reliability tests routinely conducted by the likes of RootMetrics are not always entirely representative of the real-life experience of smartphone users, but these independent reports remain without a doubt our best indicator of the amazing progress being made by the US wireless industry as a whole.
5G speeds are on the rise but the fastest carrier might surprise you
At least for the time being and at least in these 45 markets, Ma Bell’s combination of extensive low-band spectrum and limited mmWave technology is proving the winning strategy. Granted, we’re not talking about a crushing victory over T-Mobile and Verizon, but AT&T’s 31 cities with 5G median download speeds of between 50 and 100 Mbps trump the combined tally of its two arch-rivals in the same section.
Perhaps more impressively, AT&T was able to offer the “absolute best 5G speed experience” in a grand total of 14 cities, compared to just six and three for T-Mobile and Verizon respectively. That indicator combines median with 5th percentile and 95th percentile speeds to provide a more realistic look at various usage scenarios ranging from the best to the worst case you could experience on any given day.
The 5G availability and reliability wars yield different winners
Meanwhile, there’s clearly still plenty of room for improvement for T-Mobile in the speed section to match its towering service availability numbers, and the same actually goes for 5G reliability, where AT&T and Verizon are currently sharing their industry leadership status.
When combining the two factors (getting connected and staying connected), all three mobile network operators shined, delivering “generally exceptional” 5G data reliability. But AT&T shined (slightly) brighter than Verizon, which in turn clearly eclipsed T-Mobile.