"We've gathered you today, carrier fans, to settle once and for all if Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint or AT&T have the fastest network, the best coverage, and who's boss in video streaming game."
That might as well be how the latest bi-annual report from OpenSignal starts, as it includes metrics on download speed, 4G coverage and availability, video experience, latency and, for the first time, voice app quality for the big four US networks, courtesy of OpenSignal's communal methodology.
We will save you the suspense - the big winners seem to be the two largest US carriers, and in terms of the all-important coverage and average download speeds at that. Given that OpenSignal's data is crowdsourced, and users are mainly hailing from downtown areas, where T-Mobile has good coverage for the most part, АТ&T's comeback is even more impressive but here is the full scoop by category.
Well, again, Verizon scored highest in 4G coverage with AT&T not far behind. Bear in mind also that if there is no coverage, the app simply doesn't register a score, so these results might be skewed to big metropolitan areas, too.
Compared to the last download speeds tests that were included in the July 2019 report, we are seeing a decent progress in average download speeds, provided that we account for the boost from 5G downloads which for now represent just 1% of the test scenarios. AT&T and Sprint have staged the most dramatic increase in average download speeds, to the tune of a record 27.5 Mbps for Ma Bell, while Verizon and T-Mobile are almost on par.
The uploads paint a different picture. T-Mobile's diverse spectrum holdings resulted in a record 8.6 Mbps uploads on average, while Sprint lags far behind the rest with just 2.7 Mbps average speeds of upload.
Apart from the huge surge in both download and upload speeds for AT&T, it also won in the latency game with the lowest hence best result of all four major US carriers, and T-Mobile breathing down its neck.
While OpenSignal introduced a video streaming quality methodology not long ago, there is an extra twist in the new report, cryptically named Voice App Experience. That's simply how good voice quality is when you call over Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp or other chat app via the data connection of T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. Needless to say, the lower average latency of AT&T and T-Mobile's networks puts them at an advantage here, and they shared the first place.
Last but not least is the category of video streaming which is fast becoming the biggest data-guzzler on a network, with 60% of all bits and bytes in the ether consumed by video, projected to increase to 75% in a few years.
That is why that smooth streaming and quality picture are so important, given the ever-increasing definition and dynamic range of the footage. Verizon takes the cake here, and AT&T better step up to the plate as its HBO Max streamer is hitting the market very soon with one of its new unlimited plans. Sprint scores a rare second place, followed closely by the "Netflix on us" crowd.
As you can see, there are some movers and shakers since the previous six-month report came out, namely that the two major US carriers are again in the lead at what matters most for the average subscriber - coverage, speed, and availability.
T-Mobile is not far behind, though, and if it merges with Sprint, all bets are off and sky is the limit, or so the lawyers say.
Unfortunately, there is not one single carrier that is best in both coverage, download speeds and 4G/5G availability, but in general, if you are on one of the larger carriers, your experience will be as good as it gets. The rise of the 5G networks this year may reshuffle the deck further, and we can't wait to check back for the 2020 reports.