Verizon vs T-Mobile vs AT&T: who do customers think has the best 5G network?

Verizon vs T-Mobile vs AT&T: who do customers think has the best 5G network?
Depending on what specific aspects of the general mobile experience you value most and what analytics firm you choose to trust to deliver unbiased and comprehensive network performance measurements, you can objectively view whichever major US carrier you want as the leader of this incredibly competitive industry.

Of course, not everyone has the patience to look at all the data put together by the likes of Opensignal and RootMetrics every few months, especially when personal experiences, anecdotal reports from friends and online strangers, and even advertising campaigns tend to hold more weight in the minds of many regular consumers than cold, hard numbers and largely theoretical speed tests.

That might explain why a whopping 43 percent of respondents to a recent survey named Verizon as the owner of the "best 5G network" stateside, well ahead of AT&T and T-Mobile's 26 and 23 percent shares of answers respectively. 

Why Verizon?

Although it's obviously difficult to know exactly what prompted the choices of 1,110 different people, Big Red's "5G Built Right" messaging may have had a crucial contribution to the carrier's somewhat surprising victory in this early January survey conducted by multinational independent investment bank and financial services company Cowen.

Interestingly, Verizon was ranked well behind AT&T in ad expenditure a couple of years back (while far exceeding T-Mobile), but whether or not that changed in 2020, there's no question that Big Red ran considerably more effective 5G-centric publicity campaigns than its arch-rivals since 2019.

Some of its most memorable commercials starred actress Jenny Slate performing real-life speed tests meant to highlight Verizon's huge Ultra Wideband advantage over T-Mobile's "nationwide" low-band 5G signal, and even though the vast majority of consumers out there can't dream of achieving those 1Gbps+ scores on their own phones, the general user perception clearly favors the largest wireless service provider in the US.

"Residual goodwill" from Verizon's 4G network dominance is another important factor explaining the results of this survey, according to Cowen's top analysts, which makes perfect sense given how many US-based smartphone owners continue to rely on outdated LTE connectivity for their daily mobile communication and web browsing needs.

Last but certainly not least, Big Red's 5G expansion efforts gained a lot of prominence after its own October "nationwide" rollout, which was brilliantly timed to coincide with Apple's highly anticipated iPhone 12 family launch.

T-Mobile is slowly but surely catching up

While pretty much all industry pundits and market research firms seem to agree Magenta is the clear leader of the early stages of the 5G revolution when considering everything from download speeds to service availability, consumers may need a little more time to process the apparent change in status quo.

For what it's worth, the "Un-carrier" is making progress compared to a Q4 2019 study in which only 20 percent of respondents picked T-Mobile as the nation's 5G champion. Intriguingly enough, AT&T's numbers have gone largely unchanged, with Verizon losing no less than four percentage points in just a few months.

If T-Mo can keep this growth pace up, its path to victory looks wide open, especially with bigger and bolder marketing campaigns perhaps focused a little less on mocking the competition and more on emphasizing its own strengths.

God knows the second-largest mobile network operator in the US has a lot to boast when it comes to both 5G infrastructure and palpable upgrades many customers can already take advantage of to wash the bitter 4G LTE taste from their mouth. Then again, T-Mobile might get another perception problem on its hands soon, as Verizon is widely expected to dominate the latest spectrum auction and thus close the mid-band resources gap, at least on paper.

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