Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile vs Sprint: new 5G and 4G LTE speed tests yield two big winners

Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile vs Sprint: new 5G and 4G LTE speed tests yield two big winners
With the coronavirus pandemic raging across the US for what feels like an eternity now, you can probably imagine how hard it must have been for RootMetrics analysts to collect all the data needed to assess the nation's carrier performance for the first half of 2020. 

But after temporarily suspending its testing back in March and resuming the extensive operation several months later in complete safety, as well as revising its previous reports to ensure the new results are in direct correlation with how everything was evaluated last year, the analytics firm has done it again, pitting Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint against each other in all 50 states, as well as in the 125 most populated metropolitan markets.

Incredibly enough, RootMetrics still managed to conduct more than 2.7 million mobile network performance measurements between January and June by visiting over 3000 places and driving more than 202,000 miles, which are pretty impressive travel achievements for the strange and difficult times we're living in.

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AT&T is the nation's heavyweight speed champion

Hate on Ma Bell's "5G Evolution" network as much as you want, but when it comes to median download speeds, America's number three wireless service provider (by subscribers) moves into the number one slot. 

That has to do primarily with AT&T's fast and strong 4G LTE signal, mind you, although the carrier's ever-expanding 5G network may have played its own crucial role in getting the operator up to a towering nationwide 42.0 Mbps average speed score.

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While today's result doesn't make a distinction between any of the top carriers' 4G and 5G averages, we do know AT&T's median download speeds are remarkable across metropolitan areas, exceeding median download speeds of 40 and 50 Mbps in 67 and 42 markets nationwide respectively while dipping below 20 Mbps in only eight of the 125 metros tested by RootMetrics for the purposes of this new in-depth report.

Of course, download speeds are just one (arguably important) component of the overall mobile network experience, but in case you're wondering, AT&T also shines when it comes to other similarly important stuff like "reliability", as well as calls and texts.

Verizon is the overall champion

As much as you might (and should) care about average speeds, it's hard to proclaim AT&T the US wireless industry king when Verizon is the winner of six nationwide crowns in the latest RootMetrics contest. That's right, Big Red comes out on top in all but one of the seven competitions organized by the independent mobile analytics firm, tying AT&T and Sprint for the text category's gold medal while taking home the solo trophies for reliability, accessibility, data, and calls, and settling for second place in the speed chart with a solid 36 Mbps score.

Out of 385 individual opportunities, Verizon managed to earn a mind-blowing 329 RootScore awards, delivering "consistent" speeds and "outstanding" network reliability despite continuing to struggle in the 5G availability department.


Believe it or not, 0.7 percent is the carrier's single best 5G availability score across the 125 metropolitan markets inspected by RootMetrics (registered in Omaha, Nebraska), which compares woefully to the 62.6, 49.9, and 25.1 percent top results achieved by T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint in Jackson, Mississippi, Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles, California respectively.

T-Mobile and Sprint are... still transitioning

As you may be aware by now, T-Mobile has some incredibly ambitious post-merger plans, which have already started materializing in many places, leveraging Sprint's former mid-band spectrum to enable a 5G experience like no other in the US. 

The problem is Magenta's "layer cake" strategy has a lot of moving parts, requiring many months (possibly years) of network development and integration work to bear fruit around the nation. As things stand stood between January and June, T-Mobile and Sprint's networks were not particularly impressive in any way, lagging behind the competition in terms of median download speeds (especially T-Mo) while doing the best job handling texts.

Perhaps the most worrying thing for the "Un-carrier" is that it ranked dead last among the nation's big four operators in every single nationwide category from speed to reliability and calls, although on the bright side, its speed test results were solid in a bunch of metropolitan markets.

Somewhat surprisingly, Sprint managed to improve many key aspects of its overall mobile network experience between last year and the first half of 2020, including median download speeds and data reliability, although its number one strength remains the mid-band 5G spectrum T-Mobile is in the process of redeploying to boost speeds in a lot of cities and towns where Verizon can't compete as far as coverage is concerned.

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