Mobile Leads US Market in LTE Availability, Speed in Q4

Testing Firm: T-Mobile Is the 'Operator to Beat'

In LTE availability, Verizon actually beat out T-Mobile by winning outright in 11 markets and tying them in another 22.

What makes a wireless service provider as beloved by customers as all those market research firms are deeming T-Mobile nowadays? Market variation is still strong, with T-Mobile near the top in places like Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia, but nearly entirely beaten in locations like San Francisco and LA. T-Mobile is now the operator to beat in almost every one of our mobile data measurements, but it found its dominance questioned in one category: AT&T took our award for LTE network responsiveness.

According to OpenSignal, T-Mobile ended the year with an average 4G download speed of 19.42 Mbps, while Verizon played catch-up at 17.77 Mbps.

When OpenSignal published monitoring results last August, both AT&T and Verizon showed steadily declining 4G network speed that was attributed to the reintroduction of unlimited data plans.

AT&T saw a more modest recovery in download speeds and remained below its previous levels.

T-Mobile's the fastest 4G LTE network in the USA for now, but that doesn't mean Verizon and the rest of the gang can't catch up. The carrier's download speeds jumped 33 percent over the past year. All tests were done where coverage was available for each carrier. The Bellevue, Washington-based telecom giant was found to be offering the best 3G, 4G, and overall download speeds, lowest 3G latency, and the widest 4G availability. It will be free for existing AT&T customers.

The Uncarrier took the the top spot in five of the six categories OpenSignal measures. Sprint is still firmly the fourth place carrier, but if it keeps up at this pace, it could soon surpass AT&T in several important categories. The only category they didn't win was 4G latency, which AT&T posted the best score in. That neck-and-neck race was evident in our 33-city analysis where Verizon had the advantage. AT&T came in second with 2.71 Mbps, Sprint in third with 1 Mbps, and Verizon pulled up the rear with an very bad 0.87 Mbps.

The fastest possible 4G data speeds are the order of the day, and OpenSignal's data reveals that T-Mobile continues to lead the field. With a 4G latency of 58.29ms, AT&T stood first, while T-Mobile was second at 59.74ms. Fortunately there's data for this too, but it's worth noting that OpenSignal's availability data is collected by time spent connected to a 4G network rather than the geographical coverage percentage that carriers will often talk about. Our AT&T testers were able to find an LTE signal 87% of the time, while our Sprint users tapped into an LTE signal 85.7% of the time.

2018 could prove to be an even more unpredictable year than its predecessor for the US mobile industry. The stakes couldn't be higher in 2018. Big Red has a history of making big network moves when under pressure. This is a particularly important metric, as 4G networks aren't always available, especially if traveling away from major built up areas.

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