Mobile still has fastest 4G LTE speeds, while Verizon, AT&T slowly recover

Bill Rogers
January 23, 2018

T-Mobile took no such hit since they'd had "unlimited data" for a while before Verizon and AT&T jumped back onboard.

Have you considered switching to T-Mobile recently? 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.

Although the larger carriers largely lagged T-Mobile, the OpenSignal analysis also noted that Verizon and AT&T halted declines in 4G speed previous year after new unlimited data plans put increased pressure on network capacity. This still leaves a big gap between the other three, which have download speeds ranging between 13.2 and 19.4 Mbps on average.

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. Thankfully, though, the carriers have been working to improve speeds. It was the first major US operator to launch LTE when the technology was only in its infancy, and when Verizon's 4G speeds began suffering under capacity strains in 2013, it responded with a major upgrade it called XLTE, which poured enormous amounts of capacity back into its networks. The decline in speeds are ultimately on their way back up after the networks begin to recover, but that still could not put up a fight against T-Mobile speeds. T-Mobile 4G speeds have been shooting upwards steadily for the past year, and in the 4th quarter it hit a new 4G download high of 19.4 Mbps, establishing it as the clear leader in 4G speed for the second report in a row. Out of the six major categories, T-Mobile was crowned champ of 5 of them.

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And in last place is Sprint, which didn't win any awards.

OpenSignal previously found Verizon and AT&T's 4G speeds started falling since last February after the two largest mobile service providers in the country revived their wireless plans to address T-Mobile's decision to do the same. That neck-and-neck race was evident in our 33-city analysis where Verizon had the advantage. OpenSignal had different results between April 1 to June 30, 2017 and crowned T-Mobile as the download speed king. Its availability score rose almost 9 percentage points over the last twelve months, compared to 6 percentage points for T-Mobile and 5 percentage points for both Verizon and AT&T. 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.

According to OpenSignal, while considering the deployment of 5G, competition for the mobile networks is heating up and 2018 will be pretty unpredictable. The report from Open Signal comes just days after T-Mobile and its MetroPCS pre-paid unit were both given the highest customer care score ever awarded by J.D. Power for the industry.

Having fast download speeds is important - especially as we march towards 5G - but it's not the only thing that matters and makes a wireless network great.

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