The first US 5G awards spread the wealth between Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T
There have been many reports comparing and contrasting the early 5G services of America's top wireless carriers from different standpoints and across different regions and markets put together in recent months, but for the first time, Opensignal is presenting a set of awards previously reserved to 4G LTE networks.
After conducting a whopping 16 billion measurements or so on close to 2.5 million devices between March 16 and June 13, the renowned mobile analytics company is today ready to name the nation's leading operator in terms of 5G download speed, as well as the 5G availability top dog, and perhaps most importantly, the champion of the download speed experience section as far as 5G users are concerned.
There are no prizes for guessing the totally predictable winners of two of those categories, with the third one actually producing a decidedly surprising and meaningful tie we'd like to discuss and analyze first and foremost.
AT&T is keeping up with Verizon in a paramount metric
When talking about the biggest 5G breakthroughs and most impressive related achievements of US mobile network operators over the last year or so, the vast majority of industry pundits and market analysts have been regularly praising Verizon and T-Mobile while occasionally giving Sprint honorable mentions and either criticizing or ignoring AT&T altogether.
That's because Ma Bell's initial 5G rollout strategy seemed scattered and unfocused, lacking both Big Red's dedication to pure speed and Magenta's determination to blanket the entire nation with low-band spectrum.
But it now appears that AT&T has been able to strike an unexpectedly good balance between 5G speed and availability, statistically tying Verizon for first place in the "download speed experience - 5G users" chart. This is a far more complex evaluation of the current real-world user experience than a simple measurement of average 5G speeds, taking into account the actual time spent on 5G, as well as the average 4G LTE download numbers enjoyed by 5G users when downgraded to the old cellular standard.
In other words, AT&T's 4G network is fast enough to make up for the massive speed advantage of Verizon's cutting-edge but spotty mmWave-based 5G Ultra Wideband service.
Verizon and T-Mobile predictably split the raw speed and 5G availability titles
Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past 14 months, this latest in-depth Opensignal report does a splendid job of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of Verizon and T-Mobile's radically different 5G strategies.
Big Red took a pretty big chance on mmWave technology, choosing to deliver huge speed upgrades for a handful of users lucky enough to obtain and maintain a blazing fast 5G signal. This approach is not only unique at the national level, but internationally as well, allowing Verizon's 5G users to experience the "fastest average 5G speeds that Opensignal has seen to date on any carrier around the world."
That's right, Verizon is the world's best carrier when it comes to average 5G speeds, but unfortunately, that becomes a largely meaningless title if you also consider its dismal 0.4 percent availability score. That doesn't even mean Big Red's 5G network covers 0.4 percent of the country, which would actually be a great improvement over today's real number, but rather that Verizon's 5G users spend a measly 0.4 percent of their time connected to 5G.
That's a truly pitiful figure compared to T-Mobile's towering 22.5 percent availability score and even Sprint and AT&T's 14.1 and 10.3 percent marks in the same metric.
Of course, that doesn't make Verizon's 494.7 Mbps 5G speed average any less mind-blowing, but while T-Mo has a carefully devised plan to continue boosting both its 5G availability and speed numbers in the next months and years with the help of Sprint's mid-band spectrum and the "layer cake" strategy, Big Red seems mostly stuck betting on the wrong horse.