The Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T networks and 5G speeds get tested like the carriers refuse to

The Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T 5G network speeds get tested like the carriers refuse to
Recently, the FCC started trying to mandate big US carriers report 4G and 5G coverage areas and speeds the good old-fashioned way, by driving around the country, and taking spot measures, not just relying on computer algorithms and their own network engineers' reports.

This would put an end to barely supported "best" this or "fastest" that claims, depending on methodology. T-Mobile boasts the widest "5G availability," Verizon brags with the fastest 5G but in a very limited scale, all the while AT&T keeps reaping median download speed awards, what gives? If you are confused about the state of US carriers' 5G networks, you are not alone.

Well, PCMag did its annual song and dance driving around big metro areas and taking spot speed tests, and its results pretty much confirm what a RootMetrics report with a similar "in the field" testing methodology, albeit on a grander scale, disclosed yesterday.

Verizon wins network speed tests in a close contest with AT&T

The testers spread out in 26 big city areas in the US, and took thousands of measurements. The results? Verizon took the average network speed test by a small margin over AT&T, with T-Mobile last. 

Bear in mind that this test measures average speeds, whereas the RootMetrics one takes median speeds which are arguably a more credible representation of the real state of affairs, and in that scenario AT&T was not a bit behind, but faster than Verizon. Big Red's average speeds, for instance, may be skewed by the high peak download speeds of its otherwise extremely limited mmWave 5G footprint.

On the other hand, T-Mobile's recent undertakings in carrier aggregation and other upload speed improvements have resulted in a top upload speed crown here, and its latency also sits in the golden middle.

T-Mobile vs AT&T vs Verizon 5G network coverage and availability

Verizon lost the 5G network availability round in those areas by a huge margin to T-Mobile and AT&T, given its 5G only covers a block or two here and there.

T-Mobile's claims that it has 20 times the AT&T footprint don't hold water in this real-life testing scenario, as it counts all the cities and towns in a metro area as separate locations, whereas AT&T counts the metro areas as a whole.  So, yes, T-Mobile's 5G availability was larger than AT&T's in the 26 cities tested - 54% vs 38% - but certainly not twenty times so.

The moral of the story from these impromptu tests that the carriers themselves refuse to do because they say it would be too costly? 

For now, 5G is not all that it is cracked up to be, and the carriers marked a significant speed boost of their networks since last year, which was mainly due to upgrades of their 4G technology, however. Is it time to buy that latest 5G flagship then? Not really, but that puppy certainly will have other merits, and remain futureproof for when 5G is worth a premium.

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