The rollout of 5G is in full swing, and while we don’t yet have the overall experience that we’ve been hearing about for years, we’re getting there. But which carrier is closest to offering that long-promised 5G utopia? According to a new report from RootMetrics, all three major U.S. carriers have their own pros and cons.
According to the new report, T-Mobile has the largest 5G network in the country, AT&T’s network is currently the fastest, and AT&T and Verizon are about tied when it comes to 5G reliability.
First, there’s availability. According to the report, 55% to 70% of users were covered by T-Mobile 5G in 28 of the 45 cities where the study was conducted in the first half of 2021. That’s compared to only 12 cities getting that kind of coverage in the second half of 2020, showing how rapidly T-Mobile is expanding its 5G network. The other carriers are also quickly expanding, with 55% to 70% of users covered by AT&T 5G in 17 out of 45 cities in 2021, compared to only three cities in the second half of 2020. And, while zero cities had that kind of coverage from Verizon last year, three do now.
Speeds are also improving, but for now, AT&T is leading the pack. In a hefty 31 of the cities tested, AT&T offered download speeds of between 50 and 100 Mbps, compared to only seven cities at the end of last year. Most of the cities that offer T-Mobile and Verizon 5G fall below that, in the 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps range, though again, that should improve over time.
Download speeds still aren’t very consistent, though. RootMetrics offers worst and best download speeds, showing that on T-Mobile and Verizon, it’s not uncommon to get speeds of between 0 and 5 Mbps. Thankfully for AT&T users, most of the time, worst-case speeds are between 10 Mbps and 30 Mbps. T-Mobile wins in best-case speeds, with 13 out of 45 cities offering speeds of over 250 Mbps, while most cities with AT&T 5G offered between 10o Mbps and 200 Mbps. In 25 cities, Verizon’s best-case speeds were between 100 Mbps and 150 Mbps.
Last but not least is reliability. According to the study, generally, all three carriers offered excellent data reliability, though it’s another area where AT&T leads the pack. Both in terms of getting connected to a 5G network, and staying connected to it, AT&T leads in more cities than the others — though it was pretty close.
Generally speaking, 5G networks are set to continue to get better. Hopefully, they’ll not only roll out to more cities over the next few years, but it’ll get faster too.