Verizon vs T-Mobile vs AT&T: new 5G report highlights the big three's strengths (and weaknesses)
Because the US 5G landscape is continuously shifting and transforming, especially at this relatively early stage in the technology's development and evolution towards inevitable ubiquity, RootMetrics is now updating its market reports tracking the progress of the nation's top three carriers far more often than just once every three or six months.
The latest update comes just a couple of weeks on the heels of the analytics firm's aptly titled May 5G scorecard, which in turn arrived only a little over a month after the race between Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile was closely scrutinized in "early 2021."
Everyone's a winner once again
Rating the wireless industry's three major players in exactly three categories almost feels like a way to make sure that no one will be bitterly disappointed or particularly delighted by the findings of this specific mobile network performance evaluator.
Unlike OpenSignal, for instance, whose quarterly research papers generally put T-Mobile well ahead of the competition in everything from 5G availability and 5G reach to 5G download and upload speeds, RootMetrics is evenly spreading the love by handing out one trophy to each of the big three US wireless service providers.
Just like last month, when the company's new rating system was inaugurated, AT&T is declared the nation's big winner for "everyday 5G download speeds", with T-Mobile unsurprisingly crowned the heavyweight champion in "everyday 5G availability", and last but not least, Verizon taking home the "everyday 5G data reliability" title.
The difference is the newest batch of tests covers a grand total of 85 of the 125 most populated metros in the US, up from 65 in May and 45 in April, which means these results bring us one step closer to H1 2021's full picture. The rankings are thus less and less likely to change by the time the final conclusions of this year's first-half measurements will be released.
That being said, it's certainly interesting to see Verizon widen the gap to AT&T in 5G network reliability after Ma Bell's early 2021 lead. This might be a more important indicator of the overall user experience than you imagine, measuring a carrier's ability of both getting and keeping you connected to a 5G signal.
A tale of two different strategies
If you've been keeping an eye on the US wireless industry for more than a couple of months, you're probably already well aware of the core distinctions between T-Mobile and Verizon's 5G rollouts.
Leveraging an unrivaled combination of low and mid-band spectrum, Magenta is the only one of the nation's big three mobile network operators capable of maintaining a perfect 5G coverage record after the surveying of 85 markets this year. That's right, T-Mo offers 5G in (many) parts of all these 85 cities while winning no less than 58 individual 5G availability battles, the most impressive of which comes from Dallas.
Solely focused... at first on delivering mind-blowing "Ultra Wideband" speeds, Verizon added a low-band "nationwide" component to its 5G network a long time after its arch-rival, so far failing to strike the perfect balance between velocity and coverage, as highlighted by Big Red's embarrassing total score in the "highest everyday 5G availability category."
Perhaps most disappointingly for the largest carrier stateside, its other arch-rival looks unfazed at the top of the speed chart, despite not managing to add any outright wins to its tally since the release of the previous report.
T-Mobile, which continues to be ranked at the bottom of the 5G speed hierarchy by the number of cities it dominates, managed to score the most resounding victory of this latest batch of tests, producing an insane 195.8 Mbps "everyday" 5G download median and an even more astounding 232 Mbps 5G-only median in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
If the "Un-carrier" can hit those numbers with a much humbler trove of mmWave spectrum than Verizon, it's crystal clear (once again) that its strategy has a far better chance of proving successful at striking the perfect aforementioned balance across the nation... eventually.