T-Mobile: Verizon, AT&T networks 'have caved' due to unlimited plans

Neville Ray
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray. (T-Mobile)

T-Mobile said a new report from Ookla indicates its LTE network continues to provide the fastest average download speeds among major U.S. wireless carriers. And the carrier made a point of noting that Verizon's and AT&T's networks have slowed since the bigger carriers have jumped aboard the unlimited bandwagon.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray claimed in a blog post that fresh Ookla data “based on millions of real-world customer experiences” using the Speedtest app shows that T-Mobile’s network ranked first in speed and LTE availability. An Ookla representative said that the data has yet to be published but that Ookla reviewed T-Mobile’s claim before Ray’s post was published.

“The real news is how dramatically both AT&T and Verizon’s networks have caved since making unlimited available to their customers—all while T-Mobile’s network has continued to soar,” Ray wrote before referring to a chart T-Mobile created based on the data. “That chart? That’s what it looks like when carriers jump into unlimited without doing the hard work to make sure their networks are ready. In that chart, you can see that Verizon has plunged all the way down to third place behind AT&T on network speed. That’s just in the first full quarter since offering unlimited.”

There’s no question that the network gap between every major U.S. operator has narrowed in recent years as the industry evolves basic LTE toward 5G deployments. Verizon spokesman Howard Waterman pointed out that Ookla is just one of several major companies that measure the performance of wireless networks and noted that recent reports from PCMag.com and others indicate Verizon’s network is still tops in the United States.

“Isolated peak speeds from a crowd-sourced test don’t tell the whole story. Looking across the numerous performance test results including drive tests, crowd-sourcing and customer experience surveys, and considering all aspects of a customer’s experience (speed, coverage and reliability), Verizon has been and remains the industry’s leading wireless network,” Waterman said via email. “Crowd-sourced data, which Ookla produces, can be impacted by many variables, such as type of device, application used, where the test server is located, and by the type of pricing plan you have. Many of these tests do not factor in failed network connection attempts—in other words, where there is no network coverage.”

Verizon launched an unlimited data plan in February, joining the three other major U.S. wireless carriers and reversing its long-held opposition to unlimited data. While it isn’t clear that the move is truly taking a toll on its network, it is clearly helping the No. 1 carrier in the country retain subscribers. Verizon posted a net loss of 289,000 postpaid phone customers in the first quarter of 2017 but said it was on pace to lose nearly 400,000 of those users before it launched an unlimited plan.