According to the Forbes Columnist Curtis Silver, Open Signal has released its annual State of Mobile Networks report on the four major cell phone carriers in the United States.
That would be Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. The report focuses on 4G availability and speed. With all carriers making some sort of claim to both in advertisements, it’s interesting to see which ones really deliver that sweet, sweet 4G LTE.
TESTING BOTH 4G AND THE SLOWLY FADING INTO THE BACKGROUND 3G
Testing both 4G and the slowly fading into the background 3G network speeds, Open Signal collected 4,599,231,167 data points from 169,683 users that had the Open Signal app installed and running. It should be noted these are all Google Android users. There is no mention of Apple iOS testing, though it can probably be assumed that the manufacturer of the phone isn’t as important as the carrier.
What Open Signal has revealed is that Verizon and T-Mobile can probably stop having BDSM themed Twitter fights. Both carriers are tied for best network in the United States. While Verizon holds a slight edge in network availability (4G LTE), it is tied with T-Mobile for 4G download speed and overall download speed. If you are still dawdling on 3G, T-Mobile has the best download speed there.
THIS IS AN IMPROVEMENT FOR VERIZON WHO HAS TRADITIONALLY LAGGED BEHIND T MOBILE
This is an improvement for Verizon, who has traditionally lagged behind T-Mobile in network speeds. Overall in the U.S., 81% of residents have access to LTE networks. As far as jump in coverage, Sprint has moved up from 69.9% coverage in August to 76.8%. So Sprint gets a participation trophy along with AT&T, though AT&T was lacking any major data point wins, save for having better download speeds in a few more regions than Sprint.
One of the factors that brought Verizon up to par with T-Mobile for network speeds was its recent LTE-Advanced upgrade on its 4G network. This caused, for example, a 17.4 Mbps download speed in New York City to jump to 22 Mbps. This gave Verizon the edge in NYC and a few other of the 36 regions Open Signal focused on.
Verizon still held the crown in availability however with 88.2% coverage. T-Mobile, passing AT&T last year, has come within two percentage points of Verizon at 86.6% coverage. Meanwhile, AT&T languishes at a mere 82.2%. Sprint is still in last place in availability. While the yellow vest guy who used to work for Verizon seems to imply that Sprint is just as good, the data doesn’t suggest that Sprint is up to par in either availability or download speeds.
In 20 of the 36 regions tested, Verizon was the dominant carrier. Verizon also walked away with the 4G latency (lower latency) prize, loading web pages and video faster than the other carriers on 4G. As far as 3G, well, if you are still using 3G then you are probably just happy you have a cell phone signal at all out there in the middle of nowhere.
So what comes next for Verizon and T-Mobile, the top two carriers? Will we see an increase in attack ads, or will T-Mobile boost its 4G to overtake Verizon in coverage and download speeds? I don’t think either company will be satisfied with a tie, as that can lead to consumer complacency. A good cell phone carrier war sells phones, so it’ll be interesting to see how each company responds to this report.
None of this bodes well for me, as I recently switched to AT&T from Verizon for reasons. Thankfully I use WiFi a ton more than 4G LTE, which is spotty at best in my region. If you’ve switched recently, have you noticed a change between networks? We are always arguing over the best network, mostly due to our own hubris attributed to which company we are paying monthly fees to. At least this report might help settle some of those pointless arguments. The only question we should be asking ourselves about our cell coverage is — are we covered? It appears so.